Why Evening Rush Hour Feels So Much Worse Now

This twice-daily surge of traffic in Los Angeles had become an essential part of my freeway-centered existence. Knowing the traffic patterns gave me the impression that I was well-versed in my surroundings.

Predictability has been shattered. Drivers have returned to the roads after months of thrillingly empty highways, but I never know when I’ll run into one.

In most U.S. cities prior to the pandemic, traffic had a similar pattern: a peak around six o’clock in the morning and a slightly higher one around five o’clock.

Rather than a sharp rise in the morning, the number of people driving now increases steadily throughout the day, reaching a higher peak in the evening. Afternoon traffic has been worse than it was before the pandemic in many areas.

While Ian Shapiro’s morning commutes have gotten shorter, the 45-minute drive from L.A.’s Westside to downtown have increased to as much as an hour and 45 minutes, according to the home inspector who lives in downtown.

Shapiro, 42, told me, “It’s just chaos in the afternoon.” As soon as the kids go back to school, “it’s going to be a nightmare.”

Streetlight Data, an analytics company that uses GPS data from cellphones to track traffic patterns, found that drivers in the Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Diego metropolitan areas were more likely to get behind the wheel in the evenings this year than in 2019.

Many people have not yet returned to their offices, so the roads are less congested early in the morning. These employees are heading home in the afternoons, while remote workers are doing things like grocery shopping, going to the gym, or picking up their children from camp.

I asked Streetlight’s Martin Morzynski if it was crowded again, and he said yes. Mornings, on the other hand, are the only time that’s a little less crowded these days.

Among the four cities Streetlight looked at for me — San Diego, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Sacramento — the current traffic patterns in San Diego and Sacramento are the most similar to those of 2019, with more distinct morning and evening double peaks.

According to Morzynski, businesses in San Diego and Sacramento reopened earlier than those in the other two cities, indicating that traffic patterns in the rest of the state may return to normal in the coming months as things return to normal.

It’s hard for Shapiro to forget how beautiful and empty the freeways were only a year ago. However, he told me that he has come to terms with the traffic.

This is the way of life in Los Angeles, he said. “It won’t go away,” he said.

My colleague Emily Badger wrote about how “each additional car does not necessarily contribute equally to making traffic worse,” and how an increase in remote working could help alleviate rush hour congestion. A few more cars can cause a highway to become clogged. Similarly, clearing congestion by removing a small portion is possible.

If you only have time to read one story, it should be this one.

Last week, Vice President Biden stated that he hoped to see half of new cars sold by the end of the decade be battery-powered, which is a lofty goal given that the current rate is only 4%.

Despite this, there is a major roadblock: cost.

Despite the fact that electric car owners can save money in the long run, many Americans are unable to make the upfront investment. Low-end electric car Chevrolet Bolt starts at $31,000 — nearly $10,000 more expensive than the larger gasoline-powered Chevy Malibu.

My colleagues Ivan Penn and Niraj Chokshi have more to say, so check them out.

What we’re going to eat

Chickpeas from a can become a hearty and flavorful sandwich filling with this easy recipe.

To what location we’re going

Angelin Marie McGowan, an Oakland resident and frequent traveller to California, shared this insider tip with us. Angelin explains in a blog post:

Which places in California should we not miss? Please send your ideas to [email protected] by email. More information will be provided in upcoming newsletters.

At San Francisco’s Orpheum Theater this week, “Hamilton” is returning to the stage after a 17-month absence from the stage.

It is claimed that the West Coast production is the first to reopen in North America, according to the Mercury News. Midway through September, the show will make a triumphant return to Broadway in New York City.

As a ticketholder, you’ll need proof of vaccination or a negative Covid test if you want to attend the show (cards).

It has been a pleasure having you here today. I’ll be back in a day or two, I promise.

As a bonus, here are the answers to today’s Mini Crossword puzzle, which includes the clue “Messenger .” (3 letters).

Steven Moity was a contributor to the publication California Today. The team’s email address is [email protected], and you can reach them there.

To receive future issues of this newsletter in your inbox, please sign up here.