Chet Skwarcan is an award-winning engineer, writer, and industry innovator in the field of traffic engineering. He is known for leveraging his creativity, logic, and technology to solve today’s engineering challenges.

Rush Hour Addiction

Daily fluctuations in traffic are somewhat predictable. Exceptions include unusual proximity to factories, schools, event centers, or Amazon warehouses. And because “flattening the curve” is no longer a traffic engineering secret, here’s what I do before leaving the house (actually, this is the second thing I do before leaving the house): I look at the hourly traffic volume graph between where I am and where I’m going. I keep all this information in a handy 3-ring binder in my car. I also gave one to my wife but she seems to have misplaced it.

It’s simple to travel “between the peaks.” It does limit spontaneity but trust me, if you travel between the peaks you not only contribute to curve-flattening, you’ll be astounded at the lack of traffic. “Where is everybody?” I can’t tell you how many times I made an appointment for 9:30 in the morning only to wonder, “Where are all the cars? Is it a holiday?” Often, assuming a natural disaster, I would return home and climb under my bed. Did you know if you don’t show for an appointment you are charged a cancellation fee?

In general, approximately 9 to 10% of daily traffic is on the roadway during rush hour. And 10% of daily traffic is a lot more than 1/24th of daily traffic. Also, Alexa has no idea how to convert 60 minutes to a percentage but I’m pretty sure it’s less than 10%.

The above graph illustrates a typical 24-hr fluctuation curve and recommended time periods to go places. I can only describe it as an addiction since most of us already “know” this but there’s something about seeing it visually (visually is the best way to see things) that helps to be intentional about our day. So meet your friend for coffee mid-morning or mid-afternoon (or both). Schedule appointments, groceries, etc., between the peaks. Please try this: for one week write down every time you get in your car (date, time, and purpose) and then make a copy of the list, throw the original away, and then throw the copy away. Report back.

Chet Skwarcan (traffic engineer, author, unique insights) with over 25 years of traffic engineering experience — online help available at