Trying to get from one end of Denver to the other during rush hour is a task that I had to face every day. Here are a few tips to help cut down your busy commute by making optimal driving choices.
Don’t Always Take The Highway
The highway is only acceptable when there’s a holiday. On other days, you have to figure out how to take side roads and alternate routes. Get out of this mentality right now, and you will be on your way to success. Take some time in your morning or evening commute to get out of your comfort zone, and see if there is a northwest passage that you didn’t know about. Get options when you need to use them.
Even if you know how to get there, you don’t know the current conditions of the road. Waze pools data from thousands of users. It is your eye in the sky for things that you cannot see, and routes that may make more sense.
Waze will sometimes try and lead you down very bad paths. It constantly took me off of a turn lane with a dedicated turn signal in favor of trying to cross an extremely busy road. I always avoided this, because while it can work in a neighborhood, it is very risky and slow in other areas, and does not save any time at all.
It also doesn’t recognize certain short cuts as legitimate. My final turn into my former apartment saved roughly three minutes off of the end time, but it never accounted for it at all.
Waze will also take you through bottlenecks. By trying many iterations of your route, you can tell what will work and what will not if it tries to send you down a route that will inevitably be the wrong decision. It is not smart enough to know where you will get trapped by design — it only knows what roads are clear, and what the shortest distances are from A to B. It is your responsibility to catch its mistakes.
Traffic seems to get worse, at least in Denver, towards the 8:30 mark (although it depends on the day and the conditions). Leaving on time gives you more of an ability to get to your destination within a reasonable and consistent time frame. All good commutes start with this. You may want to ask to work different hours at work if it is possible to adjust for this.
Keep In Motion
This is the logic: a consistent mediocre route that keeps you moving is better than one which is only fast a small percentage of the time. Find that average route, and your time will stay average; there will be fewer disadvantages. It may only be part of a larger route, but it is worth doing than trying something that will not be as successful.
For example: a route where you wait for a minute to make a right turn, and then do a U-turn to get to the other side of the road may be better than:
- Waiting for the perfect moment to make that left turn at the designated area.
- Waiting at a long traffic light somewhere else.
- Giving up and using the freeway.
Use the Correct Lanes
The slow lane is slow for a reason. You can’t always justify moving to the left and then right again, but there are certain lanes which flow into others that you should be moving into at given points of your commute. This is probably more common sense than anything, but it is important to take the time to observe which lanes will carry you the farthest the fastest.
If all else fails, move closer to your job. That’s what I ended up doing. Skip the podcasts and get more time for yourself. If you’re stuck and can’t relocate, some of the above tips may still help you rethink what you’re doing. When I initially wrote this post, I was really into commuting and finding the most optimal route. However, I now wouldn’t trade a forty-five minute commute for anything. I sleep better, have less stress during the day, and feel healthier. The best advice I have is to not have to follow my advice here.