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Old 01-04-2008, 06:57 AM
Location: Inside the 101
2,745 posts, read 7,365,436 times
Reputation: 3171


Okay, let's take a break from Phoenix-bashing, basher-bashing, etc. to talk about something that almost everyone has to deal with: traffic

My issue: Every year the traffic on the freeways seems much worse during the winter than the summer. I notice this particularly during the evening rush and not so much in the morning. Freeways that would be smooth sailing by 6 PM in the summer are still hopelessly clogged until 7 PM in the winter.

The conventional wisdom is that seasonal residents (aka snowbirds) are to blame, but I'm skeptical of that explanation. Sure, if I were commuting in East Mesa or any other place known for a big influx of seasonal residents, I'd buy the snowbird explanation. The problem is that I'm commuting on 1-10 and SR-51 in the heart of Phoenix. Most snowbirds don't go Downtown.

Since I don't think seasonal residents are the cause, I've tried to come up with some alternative explanations:

1. A large number of people in the Phoenix Metro Area are employed in homebuilding and construction trades. During the summer, those folks need to start and end their days early to beat the heat. During the winter, they move their schedules closer to a typical office worker's schedule. The result is that traffic that would be spread out in the summer is compressed into a single rush hour during the winter.

2. During the winter, some increased traffic is attributable to college students, and even some high school students, driving to and from their schools.

3. During the evening rush in the winter, a lot more people are driving home in darkness, increasing the potential for accidents.

What do you think? Do these explanations make any sense at all, or is there another cause to blame? Fortunately, it looks like my employer is moving me to a building that I can actually reach via public transit, so I may not have to deal with this problem as much in the future, but inquiring minds want to know.
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Old 01-04-2008, 10:44 AM
3,632 posts, read 16,102,687 times
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I discovered this phenomenon this past summer. I decided to take the 17 from the north one morning (a monday morning for goodness sakes) and I thought I was crazy to try it. Well, it was SMOOTH sailing all the way to work! I was thinking it must be a holiday or something, but nope it wasn't. I tried it the next day and it was the same way. Needless to say, it was like that the entire summer. I was a happy camper! My commute went from 36+ minutes to 20!

Then came the fall and it all went down hill. I think it was when kids went back to school, but I'm not entirely sure. People kept telling me that it's the snow birds, but I don't buy that either! I looked at all the drivers around me and no one looked retired. Plus, why the heck would they be headed down the freeway during rush hour?

I do think some of it has to be college students driving down to ASU and any of the community colleges.
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Old 01-04-2008, 11:00 AM
4,259 posts, read 4,892,974 times
Reputation: 3373
The traffic increase really starts in fall when the kids go back to school and then builds from there with not only the snowbirds that stay for a few months, but also the short term tourists escaping the cold for a week or weekend. I think that the timing of when locals take their family vacations also play a big role. In the summer, a certain percentage of drivers each week are staying home or out of town on vacation and it adds up. In Jan/Feb, the holidays are done, very few people are leaving for vacations, kids and parents are on the road more with school and activities and peak traffic is a result.
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Old 01-04-2008, 12:02 PM
9,091 posts, read 19,115,774 times
Reputation: 6967
agree with that - it's a lot of influences

in the winters you have snowbirds, schools in session, conventions, tourists, etc - everyone flocks here with the weather

add it all up and things get more congested

in the winter students (and teachers) are staying home, snowbirds gone, people really aren't coming in at the same rate and you have the locals escaping the heat - i know the past 3 years I've been out of the city at least 10 days in July on vacation

this opens up traffic throughout the city and the main congestion you'll hit is people driving out of town on the weekends
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Old 01-05-2008, 12:07 AM
Location: Red Rock, Arizona
683 posts, read 2,640,043 times
Reputation: 513
When I was working at a golf course, we went to work at 5:00 in the morning during the summer. During the winter, we would go in about 7:00. So that's a two hour swing, but the biggest difference was that a lot of the guys would just go straight home after work in the summer. I think a lot of people that work outside don't do much after work during the summer when it's hot. During the winter when the afternoons are so nice there are more people outside doing stuff during the afternoon. There's less daylight, so everyones activities are concentrated into a shorter amount of time.

Other than that, I agree there's more traffic from school and snowbirds. And during the summer a lot of people leave town for vacations.
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