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Study: Evening rush hour slows Atlanta traffic by 23 percent

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Just be thankful you don’t live in Boston or New York City

A photo of bad traffic in downtown Atlanta at evening.
After a long day of work, there’s nothing quite so infuriating as the glow of a thousand tail lights.
Atlanta Regional Commission

There’s nothing novel about knocking Atlanta for having chronically bad traffic, but there is something cathartic about being able to visualize when and where roads are most liable to clog.

In August, transportation-focused data analytics company Geotab released heat maps showing how automobile use in major metro cities was impacting hyper-local temperatures.

The group’s research found that cars were warming Atlanta more to the north of Interstate 20 than the south—not a shocker, given area growth patterns.

Now, Geotab has released another round of data, which uses 7.7 million aggregated reports to illustrate traffic congestion patterns in Atlanta and other traffic hotbeds.

Analyzing the average cruising speeds of highways in these metropolises, Geotab showed that Atlanta tied with San Diego for the 14th worst speed drop percentage, compared to 18 other major cities.

a map shows where and when Atlanta traffic slows down Geotab

With a 23 percent speed drop at peak traffic times, Atlanta roadways are still slower on average than those in the Southern California city—38 miles per hour between 5 and 6 p.m., versus San Diego’s 43 miles per hour.

Of course, like most cities, Atlanta experiences two major points of congestion throughout the day—although it may sometimes seem like traffic never really lets up.

Between 8 and 9 a.m., Atlanta’s average driving speed dips 20 percent, to 40 miles per hour.

And, both in the morning and at night, the brunt of Atlanta’s traffic affliction hits downtown highways—another non-surprise.

A heat map of Atlanta
Data pulled together on the longest day of 2017 suggests Atlanta’s south side is cooler than the heart of the city.

But, as with the heat map, there is some cause for celebration in Atlanta. Or at least a sense of relief, since it could be much worse.

In Boston, between 4 and 6 p.m., traffic slows by 40 percent, down to a sluggish 22 miles per hour, per the study.

And in New York City, that same rush-hour period frustrates automobile flow by 38 percent, keeping motorists moving around 22 miles per hour, too.

On the other side of the spectrum, the pace of traffic in St. Louis, for instance, drops by only 14 percent in the mornings and 16 percent in the evenings.

But who would rather live in St. Louis than Atlanta?