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Afternoons Running Errands In The Suburbs Are The New "Rush Hour"

Tyler Durden's Photo
by Tyler Durden
Friday, May 21, 2021 - 07:00 PM

With everybody moving out of cities and into the suburbs to work from home during the pandemic, there's officially a "new rush hour".

Gone are the days of waiting on the interstate to get in and out of your local metro area around the edges of the nine to five workday. Here now are the days of a different kind of rush hour: one where running errands in the afternoon, while working from home, has suburban streets filling up.

Afternoon traffic has "come roaring back" while traditional rush hour times across the U.S. still show traffic below pre-pandemic levels. 

Marjorie Crosbie, profiled in a new Wall Street Journal article, experienced this change firsthand. The 10 mile trip to pick up her daughter at an after-school program recently took her 45 minutes instead of the usual 22-23 minutes. Crosbie works as a senior finance manager for PwC and has been working from home full time since the pandemic. 

In her area, Tampa, afternoon vehicle trips are at 105% of levels they were at pre-pandemic. "In more than 40 of the 100 biggest U.S. metros, roads are more congested on weekday afternoons than they were pre-pandemic," the report notes.

Tim Rivers, Florida market director for commercial real-estate firm JLL, told the Journal: “People are working from home, so the suburbs have tremendous traffic. They’re going out for a morning coffee at Starbucks to take their Teams or Zoom call, or going for a workout midday.”

Traffic in the afternoon has come back quicker in metro areas that have reopened earlier, the report notes. 7 of the top 10 trafficked areas have been in Florida, with notable upticks in areas like Fort Myers and Sarasota. In places like San Francisco, New York and Detroit, afternoon weekday trips are still below 80% of pre-pandemic levels, the report notes.

Whit Blanton, executive director of Forward Pinellas, a land-use and transportation planning agency in Pinellas County, said: “As other states did more of a lockdown and more long-term restrictions on restaurants and indoor events, people flocked to Florida.” 

Jeff Gabriel, 39, vice president of strategy at 23 Restaurant Services, said: “I have been stuck in traffic within 2 or 3 miles of my house.” He claims his commute takes longer in his neighborhood than on highways, which are still less congested than before the pandemic. 

And of course, traffic is starting to pile up as people make their way to the beach in an effort to have a somewhat normal summer. Amanda Payne, president and CEO of Amplify Clearwater, a chamber of commerce, said: “It seems like it’s busier in the evening trying to get to the beach. You kind of time your trip across that bridge in the not-so-busy times. It is very crowded. Parking is a challenge. There are vehicles everywhere.”

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