Feb 15, 2024 - News

Nashville commutes are getting longer for drivers

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

Traveling by car in Nashville is taking longer these days, but work is underway at the city and state levels to pump the brakes on stubborn traffic jams.

Why it matters: More time stuck in traffic means less time for family, friends, and life in general.

By the numbers: The average 6-mile trip in Nashville's city center took 11 minutes and 6 seconds last year, according to new TomTom data.

  • That's 48 seconds longer than in 2021.

Driving the news: 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.

Reality check: Even with a significant increase, Nashville is still slightly behind the national average.

Average travel time by car, 2023
Data: TomTom; Note: U.S. overall includes average of 80 cities; Chart: Axios Visuals

State of play: Last year, a coalition of downtown residents and businesses in Nashville worked with the city to identify changes that could alleviate some of the congestion in the urban core.

Zoom out: The Tennessee Department of Transportation has identified increasing congestion as a statewide problem as the population continues to grow.

  • The agency is working alongside researchers to study traffic patterns on a particularly busy stretch of Interstate 24 in Middle Tennessee. Experts hope to use their findings to chip away at time-consuming traffic jams.
  • Vanderbilt University engineer Dan Work tells Axios the data is already informing some improvements. For instance, he says, researchers have determined how to use variable speed limit signs to ease sudden slowdowns as drivers head into heavier congestion.

Of note: Not everyone returning to the roads is doing so by car. In 2023, WeGo Public Transit reported that ridership had measured an increase of 1.8 million rides over the previous fiscal year.

What's next: Mayor Freddie O'Connell is on the verge of unveiling an ambitious push to expand public transportation options. The plan would appear on the ballot in November.


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