This Monday, the U.S. will observe Memorial Day, celebrating those in the U.S. Armed Forces who gave their lives for their country. The holiday weekend is also the unofficial kickoff to summer, and many Americans will take to the roads to commemorate with family, friends, BBQs and beaches.
But it’s hard to do any of that when you’re stuck in traffic – and traffic is likely to be a doozy this year. According to the American Automobile Association, AAA for short, 37.2 million Americans will travel for Memorial Day this year, and 33 million of them will hop in their cars. That’s a 5.3% increase over last year!
Click for full size
The HERE Traffic team analyzed weekend congestion in five major cities over the past year. While they found that traffic is naturally worse leading up to Memorial Day, the devil is in the details.
Let’s start with the Friday before Memorial Day. Looking at real-time traffic data for every road in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston and Miami, we see that the Memorial Day weekend actually starts off with a lighter than usual morning rush. HERE measured traffic speeds 5-10% faster across all the five cities in the early morning hours.
In exchange for the calmer morning, the Friday before Memorial Day punishes drivers with an afternoon rush that starts earlier, lasts longer and hits harder. While rush hour normally starts around 4:30 p.m., the weekend beach bunnies could hit the road as early as 2 p.m., and traffic will be brutal. Los Angeles, for example, saw up to 40% slower traffic.
But as quickly as it comes, the lust for the road burns out a little faster than usual – around 7 p.m., one hour earlier than the normal Friday commute.
So if you’ve got your sights set on a Memorial Day getaway this weekend, consider leaving early in the morning or late in the evening. Better yet, why not leave Thursday?
For those who survive the rush and make their way out of the city, you can expect an easy return on Memorial Day Monday.
Many people have the day off, and with all the parades, BBQs and neighborhood block parties, the streets will be clear. In fact, according to our data, Memorial Day Monday looks more like a Sunday in terms of traffic.
Our data showed traffic flowing 10-20% faster on average versus a typical manic Monday. In particular, drivers returning to Chicago after a weekend away saw traffic move over 50% faster in some areas versus a normal Monday. While in Houston, traffic moved as much as 20% faster than usual.
The takeaway here: enjoy a relaxed Memorial Day holiday, no matter when you decide to head home.
And of course, before you go anywhere, check www.here.com or the HERE app for Android or iOS for real-time traffic updates.