Whether you’re a resident or not, you probably know that traffic in Washington DC is a nightmare. Crowded roads, delays and traffic jams are a daily occurrence in the capital city of the United States, making life harder for both visitors and locals who want to get from point A to point B by car. In fact, a 2019 study revealed that Washington ranks three for traffic congestion, making it one of the nation’s worst states to drive in.
But is it really such a big surprise that traffic is bad in Washington DC? Not really. If you think about it, Washington DC is a big and bustling city, with lots of people commuting to and from work every day, so that’s to be expected. Besides, traffic in DC is not nearly as bad as it is in other major cities across the world such as Bangalore, Manila or Bangkok.
However, this doesn’t mean that if you’re a driver in Washington DC, you just have to be grateful that you don’t live in one of the world’s busiest cities traffic-wise, and simply accept that you’re going to be stuck in traffic every day. There are a few tricks that can make life as a driver in DC a bit easier for you, and we’re more than happy to share them with you.
Plan your trips
The number one rule of any savvy driver is to always plan your trip before you hit the road. Even if it’s just a short drive, planning your route can save you a lot of time and trouble. If you already know your destination, all you have to do is use one of the many traffic apps available, and plan your itinerary. Remember that the shortest or fastest route may not always be the best route, so check how busy the roads are and read suggestions from other drivers to make sure you don’t get an unpleasant surprise while on the road.
Planning will help you find the best routes and be more relaxed behind the wheel since you’ll already know which moves you have to make and you won’t have to switch lanes at the last minute. And that’s how you get to enjoy safer and more pleasant rides in DC.
Avoid rush hours
This tip is clearly not applicable to everyone. If you have to be in a certain place at a certain hour, as most people with fixed work schedules have to, you simply don’t have the luxury to come and leave as you please.
But if you do have the possibility to choose when you go out on the road, do yourself a favor and try to avoid rush hours. In DC, the rush hour is the period between 6:00 and 9:00 AM and from 4:00 to 7:00 PM. That’s when the roads get congested as people are driving to or back home from work and there’s chaos on the highways. So now you know which hours to avoid if you want to run around the city with errands. Leave a little earlier or a little later, and you’ll be able to avoid the hustle and bustle of the city.
Try alternative routes
You’ve probably heard the saying that the shortest path is the one you know. Well, this doesn’t apply in this situation, so forget all about it. When it comes to DC traffic, the path you know, which is usually the path everyone else knows, can get you stuck in a traffic jam for hours.
That’s why it’s best to have a plan B and look for alternative routes to find your way around DC. We recommend avoiding popular highways, like I-95 and I-70, that can get extremely busy during certain times of the day, and take different routes to get to your destination. Highways 295, 395, 495 or 270 can be much better options if you want to enjoy smooth drives.
Stay in the know
Planning and using alternative routes can help a lot, but there’s also the element of surprise to take into account. Road accidents can happen at any time, leading to congestion, and you can’t possibly predict them. Construction work can also make some roads unusable for a while. Apart from that, there are also annual events held in DC that can change traffic patterns, and even though people are informed in advance, they might forget about it.
All these problems have a solution: stay in the know by listening to traffic updates on the radio and using traffic apps that offer real-time traffic reports. This will give you time to rethink your route in case something unexpected happens.
Park the smart way
Let’s say you get from one point to another without any problem. You can consider yourself lucky. But then you have to spend ages to find a free parking spot and your day is instantly ruined. You can’t just park anywhere you want and risk having your car towed.
The smartest thing to do is plan in advance and book a parking spot. Services such as WhereIPark can help you find the best parking options in DC and save you the nightmare of wasting precious time looking for a free parking spot. Apart from providing a time-saving solution, booking monthly parking is also convenient and cost-effective, so you might want to start your research ASAP.
Opt for alternative means of transport
If driving around DC every day is giving you a major headache, why not give up driving every once in a while? No, we’re not suggesting you stay at home while you have important business to take care of, but you’re not strapped to your car either.
There are other means of transport that can get you where you need to be much faster and with less hassle. You can take the metro, the train or the bus and see which one works best for you. And if you don’t have to travel a long distance, you can go by bike or even by foot.