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Get Ready for the September Traffic ‘Shock’

It’s September, which means that those who drive to work in the morning can expect to spend more time in traffic this month.

You might have heard the term “Terrible Traffic Tuesday,” which refers to the supposedly awful traffic on the Tuesday after Labor Day, when kids are back in school and workers are back from vacation.

But researchers at the National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board say that Terrible Traffic Tuesday is, on average, not that terrible. The days after and the following week, however, are usually quite a bit more congested than at any time in August.

TPB dubs it the “September Shock.”

“Expect to see more traffic and increased travel times,” the organization said. “For everyday travelers, the extra delay can add up to hours of extra time spent in the car each week. Regionally, added up across all travelers, it amounts to a drain on productivity and economic competitiveness.”

“The annual jump is so consistent from year to year that the TPB analysts say it’s one of the most predictable and pronounced traffic events the region sees. Their analysis also revealed that September is consistently one of the region’s top two or three worst traffic months.”

TPB’s full report is available online.

One interesting and perhaps counterintuitive observation: the increase in traffic is “mainly a morning phenomenon” — there’s only a relatively small increase in traffic during the afternoon rush hour.

Maps provided by TPB show that in Arlington, the most severe increases in traffic congestion — upwards of 50 percent increases travel times — typically happen later in the morning rush hour, around 8-10 a.m., on major routes near the Potomac River crossings into D.C.

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