How to Avoid Major City Traffic

How to Avoid Major City Traffic

Traffic congestion continues to worsen in major cities around the world, wasting time and causing endless frustration for drivers. With the high volume of cars funneling into dense urban areas every day, delays from bumper-to-bumper traffic have become expected and unavoidable for many metropolitan commuters. However, with some strategic planning and flexible transportation options, you can beat the traffic crush. This guide covers pro tips for scheduling your commute, taking advantage of alternatives to driving, and optimizing your time on the road. Read on to learn the best practices for circumventing major city traffic jams.

Planning Your Commute

Leave Earlier or Later to Avoid Rush Hour

The single best way to avoid traffic congestion is to schedule your travel outside of peak hours. Instead of sitting in gridlock during the highest traffic periods, shift your departure to before or after the heavy commuting waves. While leaving much earlier or later may not always be possible with rigid work schedules, even adjusting by 30 minutes to an hour can make a significant difference in your commute time.

Take Alternate Routes to Avoid Bottlenecks

Another strategy is finding alternate routes to dodge predictably high-traffic areas. Be willing to experiment with taking side streets or less traveled thoroughfares even if it means adding a few miles. Although your navigation app or instincts may push you towards the shortest distances, travel time trumps absolute distance when trying to avoid congestion.

Use Navigation Apps to Find Fastest Route

Speaking of navigation apps, turn to technology to assist in routing you around real-time trouble spots. Traffic-aware navigation systems like Waze and Google Maps can propose faster options based on congestion data from their users. Built-in or add-on features can also tell you estimated travel times accounting for traffic conditions.

Using Public Transportation

Overview of Public Transport Options

Public Transport Options

One surefire way to avoid traffic altogether is to let someone else do the driving and take public transportation. Major cities typically offer abundant mass transit alternatives like subway systems, light rail, bus networks, and commuter trains. Public transportation reaches higher speeds via dedicated routes that bypass vehicle traffic.

Benefits of Taking Public Transportation

In addition to dodging congestion, public transit riders enjoy cost savings from not owning, parking, fueling and maintaining a personal vehicle. Mass transit also promotes sustainability by reducing emissions per passenger mile. And riders can utilize commuting time productively or leisurely rather than grueling behind the wheel.

Walking and Biking

Consider Walking/Biking for Shorter Trips

While public transportation requires preexisting infrastructure, replacing driving with active transportation like bicycling or walking is self-enabled. If your commute distance safely permits, substituting the car for your own two feet or pedal power gets you to your destination while avoiding traffic entirely.

Overview of Pedestrian/Bike Infrastructure

Supporting alternative active transit, many municipalities continue expanding pedestrian walkways and bike lane networks. These dedicated zones separate foot and cycle traffic from congested vehicle lanes. So investigate if safe, clearly marked infrastructure exists for walking/biking at least part of your journey.

Working Remotely

Telecommuting and Remote Work to Avoid Commuting

Of course, the ultimate strategy for skipping any commute through city traffic is not traveling to the office at all. Technology now enables remote work from home for many professions, eliminating commute trips entirely. Even traditional office-based companies have normalized periodic telework schedules to give employees flexibility. Discuss instituting a regular remote schedule with your manager to lock in congestion-free days.

Driving Strategies

While public transit, biking, walking and telecommuting provide tested techniques for avoiding traffic, you may at times still need to or prefer to drive. On those occasions, arm yourself with the following battle tactics for navigating around bottlenecks.

Avoid Bottlenecks

Just as with rerouting based on navigation apps, study maps to diagnose known recurring trouble areas like chokepoints from lane reductions or frequent crash locations. Give yourself options by picking multi-lane cross streets to access key segments, allowing room to maneuver based on conditions.

Use HOV Lanes

Keep an eye out for high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes which incentive ridesharing by giving priority treatment to vehicles with two or more passengers. Reserved HOV lanes offer less congested sailing so take advantage if you have multiple riders. Some toll lanes also allow solo drivers willing to pay a fee, providing congestion relief for a price.

Time Traffic Signals

Frustrating stop-and-go movement on congested arterials often results from suboptimal traffic signal timing failing to reflect actual traffic volumes. Savvy drivers can learn signal cycles on their regular routes, adjusting speed to arrive on the green wave rather than screeching to a halt at every red light. While easier said than done, even catching a few more green lights makes a difference.

Alternative Transportation Modes

Still other ways to avoid traffic remain at your disposal for more versatility.

Carpooling and Vanpooling

Arrange to carpool with coworkers along your route to meet HOV lane requirements, halve fuel costs, and breeze past jammed general purpose lanes. Vanpooling provides all the same advantages for larger groups.

Scooters and Motorcycles

Street legal scooters and motorcycles qualify for HOV lanes in most areas and can slice through zones of density impenetrable by cars. Just ensure proper licensing, protective equipment and riding defensively among larger vehicles with limited visibility.


With advanced preparation and flexibility utilizing the tips above, major city traffic doesn’t need to impose inevitability. Plot multiple routes, shift trip timing, or use alternatives from public transit to remote work. Embrace options allowing you to skirt bottlenecks and sail smoothly towards your destination while others endure gridlock. Alleviating traffic headaches just takes some planning and willingness to change up your commute.


What time of day/week sees the lowest traffic volumes? Traffic is typically lightest very early in the morning (before 6 AM), late at night (after 8 PM), and on weekends (Saturday & Sunday), so schedule trips during those windows if possible.

Which navigation app best helps route around traffic? Waze and Google Maps both utilize real-time user data to recommend fastest routes accounting for congestion. Try them to compare which works better in your local area.

Can I drive in the HOV lane by myself? Most HOV lanes require at least 2 passengers, though a few let solo drivers pay a toll. Never enter a designated HOV area without meeting the posted occupancy rules or paying a fee if allowed.

Is public transportation slower than driving in traffic? Rarely, as buses and trains bypass vehicle congestion utilizing dedicated lanes and corridors. And you can use commute time productively rather than wasting it driving in traffic.

Can I completely avoid city traffic by working remotely? Often yes. Telecommuting eliminates the commute so you steer clear of traffic. But confirm if and how frequently remote work is permitted by company policy.

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