Feb 1, 2024 - News

Mapped: Change in Atlanta travel times

Change in average travel time by car, 2021 to 2023
Data: TomTom; Map: Axios Visuals

Car commutes in Atlanta are getting slightly longer.

By the numbers: The average 6-mile trip in Atlanta's city center took 29 more seconds last year compared to 2021, according to new TomTom data.

  • The journey took 12 minutes and 14 seconds last year, compared to 11 minutes and 45 seconds in 2021.

Zoom out: Car commutes have largely gotten slower across America since the mid-pandemic era — likely a reflection of increased traffic as more people head back to the office at least some of the time.

Zoom in: Traffic slowed most significantly in Washington, D.C., New York City and Boston between 2021–2023, based on the average time spent traveling 6 miles in their respective city centers — no shock to anybody who's driven in any of the three.

  • In D.C., that 6-mile trip took 97 seconds longer last year compared to 2021; in New York, it took 87 seconds longer; and in Boston, it took 86 seconds longer.
  • Traffic improved in a handful of cities, including Indianapolis (-39 seconds for a 6-mile trip); Grand Rapids, Michigan (-29 seconds); and Orlando, Florida (-20 seconds).
  • See TomTom's full 2023 traffic index.

The big picture: While corporate leaders' efforts to get employees back at their desks full time have mostly fizzled, the heyday of the work-from-home era is no doubt behind us.

  • WFH rates are slowly slipping downward, with just a minority of workers able to enjoy total flexibility these days.
  • The result: More car traffic, as the rush-hour rat race continues.
Average travel time by car, 2023
Data: TomTom; Map: Axios Visuals

What they're saying: "People have now gotten into the habit of going back to the office again," Andy Marchant, TomTom's head of global product marketing, tells Axios.

  • "What we saw during COVID was 100% working at home, and then what we saw after that was a hybrid model where perhaps they went in one day a week, two days a week, but predominantly still worked at home."
  • "And I think what we've seen in the last year by looking at the stats, especially around congestion at rush hour, is that people have gone back to the office more regularly now."

Between the lines: The pandemic was an opportunity for cities to rethink their transportation infrastructure in ways that might push people toward public transit.

  • But ridership plummeted during the outbreak, leaving some agencies without the resources or justification for ambitious projects.

Plus: Commutes may now be slower in some cities because of big post-pandemic construction projects, Marchant says, as people find their usual routes blocked.

  • That's especially true of European cities, he says — but it's the case in many American metros too, especially as work begins on new projects funded by the 2021 infrastructure law.

Yes, but: At least one grand experiment to get people out of their cars and onto trains and buses is set to begin soon: Manhattan's congestion pricing plan.

  • Modeled on London's largely successful effort, the idea is to charge people for driving into the busiest parts of the island — thus encouraging public transit use.
  • Yet there's been considerable pushback from commuters, especially across the Hudson River in New Jersey, where transit fees are set to increase this spring.

The bottom line: Three things are certain in life: death, taxes and rush-hour traffic.


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