For a new Atlanta resident, part of getting accustomed to your new city is learning to love dealing with Atlanta traffic. If you’ve lived in Atlanta long enough, you’ve heard the phrase “it takes 30 minutes to get anywhere in Atlanta.”
In fact, Atlanta does rank as having the 9th worst traffic in the country. The average commute in Atlanta? It’s 12.8 miles each way. With 2.6 million people employed in metro Atlanta, and only 430,000 using MARTA, that’s a lot of daily drivers.
According to INRIX, Atlantans spend 59 hours per year stuck in traffic congestion.
If you can’t avoid Atlanta traffic, how can you minimize your time spent in traffic, stay safe and make the most of your commute? We’ve put together a few tips and lessons learned that we’ve picked up over the years spent fighting Atlanta traffic.
1. The key to a great daily commute is to live inside the Chattahoochee River, not inside the 285 perimeter.
While Atlantans commonly self-identify as being “ITP” or “OTP,” the most important part of having a great daily commute is to actually live inside the Chattahoochee River.
The reason? There are only a small number of roads that travel over the Chattahoochee River into places like Roswell, John’s Creek, East Cobb and Marietta. These small number of entry points are bottlenecks, and they create massive traffic congestion. Worst of all, if there’s a wreck on 400 or 285, all of the highway traffic gets funneled to a small number of two-lane roads, creating massive gridlock.
The key to your commute is to live inside the “Hooch” so that you have dozens of different access points to wherever you’re going. Take surface street, highways — even cut through neighborhoods. By living inside the Chattahoochee, you’re free to customize the route for your daily commute based on where traffic is the worst.
2. Raining in the morning? Plan to leave 30 minutes early or work from home.
Rain makes Atlanta traffic so fun! pic.twitter.com/VTDtYgyNr7
— Jason Durden (@JasonDurdenWSB) September 27, 2016
Atlanta roads can barely handle our commute needs during a normal day. When it rains, traffic simply gets out of control. The combination of slower driving speeds and more wrecks puts traffic at a standstill.
If rain is in the forecast for the morning, your best bet is to work from home. Otherwise, plan to at least double the time for your morning commute.
3. MARTA is the cheapest and easiest way to get to the airport.
If you’re traveling to the airport, MARTA is by far the cheapest and easiest way to get there.
To start, overnight parking at MARTA stations is only $5 — $8 per day. Parking at the Atlanta airport starts at $12 per day.
Most importantly, the MARTA train drops you off directly in the airport. No fussing with parking and walking a quarter mile to the airport.
If you are going to be traveling to or from the airport anytime around Atlanta rush hour, MARTA is a necessity. That last thing you want to do is get off a plane at 5p and sit in downtown traffic for 90 minutes.
4. Driving to Midtown from 400? Take the Buford Spring Connector.
Yes, that highway that could be 85’s little sister is your fastest route to Sweetwater Brewery, Piedmont Park or anywhere else in the Virginia Highlands or Midtown area.
If you’re traveling from Buckhead, Dunwoody, Roswell or anywhere north OTP, you’ll take exit 1 on 400. Then, turn left and make a quick right onto Buford Spring Connector. Laugh as you zip by all the suckers stuck on 85.
5. Drivers don’t let you over. They accept you cutting them off.
One of the first lessons new drivers learn is how to deal with the aggression in Atlanta. Drivers here aren’t just fast; they’ll cut you off, swerve around you and generally have a complete disregard for you.
The first thing to learn is that in order to change lanes, you’ll need to cut off other drivers. Flip your left turn signal on? You’re not seeing things, the driver behind you did start speeding up. Learn to think of your turn signal as a “warning signal.” You’re telling other drivers “I’m coming, and get out of the way.
6. Rush hour starts early and ends late
Rush hour? It basically lasts all day. Rush hour in Atlanta starts at 6:30am and doesn’t let up until around 10 a.m.
Leaving work at 4 p.m. to beat the traffic? Think again. Rush hour home starts at 3 p.m. and doesn’t really end until 7:30 p.m.
But hey, at least Friday is coming up, right? Not so fast. Sure, the morning commute on Friday is incredible. It’s amazing how much faster traffic flows with just a few people working from home or taking vacation. But, you’ll pay for this later in the day.
Friday evening rush hour gets started early, beginning right after lunch and doesn’t end until 6 p.m. So don’t fret, have an early dinner and leave for your weekend vacation at 7 p.m. You might arrive late, but at least you won’t have an Office Space freak out in traffic.
All in all, Atlanta traffic isn’t that terrible, at least once you come to accept it. These tips will help keep you sane, and hopefully save you an hour or two of those 59 you’ll be spending in Atlanta traffic.
Now that you’ve read our tips, what are yours? Share your expertise in the comments.