Bypass Or Straight Thru??
I'd like to contribute a topic question for some of the readers out there to mull over and perhaps provide a little input.
When you approach a large city, do you normally drive straight through, or do you utilize a "3di" interstate bypass?
Here is my philosophy...
First off, in earlier days of the interstate highway system (let's say up until around 1980), the expressway bypasses around big cities were indeed handy. They steered drivers around the typical congestion associated with downtown areas.
However, in recent years I've found that the bypasses have become a problem in many metropolitan areas. The development of edge cities and the growth of suburbs, with all those shopping centers, office complexes and residential areas, have generated a dramatic increase in local traffic on those 3di bypasses.
In fact, it's gotten to the point where the bypasses don't bypass anything anymore!!
I have a three-fold philosophy regarding the question of bypassing a major city or driving straight through.
First off, the best approach is to plan the travel time to avoid weekday rush hours. This is an issue that many drivers neglect. For example, an early departure from home might place you in the a.m. rush in a city three hours down the road, or in the p.m. rush in a metropolis 600 miles from home. In these cases, it is best to project your travel times along the route to figure out your location at various times of the day.
Sometimes it is better to delay your departure in the morning or quit the road in the afternoon before the rush hour begins. Another possibility is to enjoy a leisurely breakfast or dinner to pass the time during rush hour, then continue on with the trip after traffic has died down.
Secondly, look at the map closely. Does the bypass add substantial mileage to the trip? I-275 swings widely to the east around Cincinnati (extra miles), while I-294 (Tri-State Tollway)provides a "tight" bypass around the city of Chicago.
Find detailed street maps of the cities you will be passing through. Examine the interchanges on the map and see if you can follow your planned route on the exit ramps. This is especially important if you need to change highways in the middle of a city.
One time on a road trip, I was changing interstates in the middle of downtown Dallas when at a critical moment my view of the exit signs was obstructed by trucks. But because I had studied the interchange beforehand, I was luckily able to take the correct exit ramp, despite being momentarily "blinded"!
Third and last, the smart driver is also informed on potential delays. Is there substantial road construction along the route? Is there bad weather ahead?
Perhaps the best overall approach in deciding how to tackle a large city is to locate an all-news station or two on the radio, where you can obtain frequent traffic updates. Sometimes an accident or heavy congestion on your planned route might force you to take an alternate route.
This is what I've learned from years of travel experience. I'll post a followup on the subject of Atlanta and I-285. I'd like to hear from others who have insight into the bypass vs. straight-thru issue for other cities.
Straight-thru until morning!
Our choice is always dependent upon which route will have the heaviest traffic. Being RoadTrip America we often seek to drive the most congested roads at peak traffic flows (we want readers/viewers to see our rig). Quite often we exit the freeway downtown and poke along at normal speed thru the center of the cities -- we have noticed that we often make better time than those commuters attempting to use the bypass routes.
Professional truckers, a key component of our readership, prefer to use the most direct route given the cost of wear and tear on the equipment.
We prefer to only use by-pass routes if those routes will let us see areas we couldn't see any other way.
Our preferences are somewhat different than the average road trippers seeking fast routes around major urban areas.
go right thru!
I love looking at the skylines and seeing cities. Whenever I approach a city I go right through the center of it. I always plan my trips in advance, usually staying 1 to 2 hours outside a major city the night before. This gives you the advantage of getting on the road at 8am and passing through a relatively uncongested city at around 9:30-10am. By passes are just so boring!
The architecture and the light!
Some of our favorite road trip sights are cities in early morning light -- two favorite views: Pittsburgh looks like the Emerald City and the East Bay when exiting the Caldecott Tunnel through Berkeley, California.
Los Angeles and Chicago downtown are also favorite hang-outs. Manhattan will always be one of our most enjoyable major urban areas to drive -- especially in a large vehicel -- a real e-ticket experience.
Thank for sharing your vision of the skylines -- brings back many happy memories!
When I take my annual trip to NC from Boston, I leave at after the local evening rush hour, drive overnight, crash somewhere for the morning and drive on down the rest of the way in the afternoon and evening. There isn't much congestion on I-81 even during rush hour.
Some people dont like to drive at night. I always have my CB on 19 and talking to the truckers helps pass the time as well as keep me alert. Truckers will take a liking to you if you talk to them.
How do you tackle Atlanta?
Here are a few explanations and recommendations regarding road travel through Atlanta, the transportation hub of the Southeast:
1) Terminology -
"The Perimeter" is the local name for I-285, which encircles the city.
"Top end of the Perimeter" - used by local traffic reporters, this term encompasses the portion of I-285 that runs east-west between I-75 and I-85, on the north side of the city.
"Outer Perimeter" - the outside lanes of I-285, where traffic flows counter-clockwise around the city.
"Inner Perimeter" - the inside lanes, where traffic travels in a clockwise manner around Atlanta.
"Spaghetti Junction" - the massive, multi-tiered interchange of I-285 and I-85 on the northeastern edge of the city. I understand that the Louisville area also has its own "Spaghetti Junction".
"Downtown Connector" - the nine-mile segment where I-75 and I-85 merge into a single, dual-signed, super-wide expressway through the heart of the city.
"Brookwood Split" - the junction north of Downtown Atlanta where the I-75/I-85 "Downtown Connector" ends (or begins).
"Cobb Cloverleaf" - the soaring interchange on the northwest side of Atlanta, where I-75 meets I-285.
"The Northern Arc" - the controversial, proposed outer beltway (I-485?) around Atlanta's northern suburbs, between I-75 and I-85. It may or may not ever be built, but Gov. Roy Barnes is pushing hard to make it a reality.
Best times to travel across the Atlanta area during the weekday are 9:30 to 11:30 am. Typical rush hours are 6:30-9:30 a.m. and 3:30-7:00 p.m.
The entire 62-mile length of I-285 carries a huge volume of truck traffic.
Radio traffic reports are essential to planning an alternate route if necessary.
The shortest distance from Point A to Point B across the Atlanta metropolitan is usually the best choice.
The northern and eastern sections of I-285 carry the most traffic, the southern and western portions the least.
If you hit town at a good time when traffic is flowing easily, you'll actually breeze through the city. You'll notice many drivers routinely going 70-75 mph.
3) Routes -
For through traffic:
I-20 east or westbound....stay on I-20 no matter what; I-285 is a very long alternative. I-20 has the least congestion of all the Atlanta interstates.
I-85 north or southbound....taking I-85 straight through Atlanta is five miles shorter than using I-285 around the eastern and southern sides of the city. Also I-285 carries a heavy volume of traffic on its eastern side between I-85 ("Spaghetti Junction") and I-20.
I-75 north or southbound....I-285 around the western and southern sides of Atlanta is 4 miles longer than driving I-75 straight through, and traffic (except for trucks)is often lighter on that side of town. The choice is close to a toss-up, but if overall traffic ahead is light, go straight through.
Changing highways: as a general rule, use I-285 if you're changing interstates in the Atlanta area.
An exception....drivers seeking to change from I-20 to/from Alabama over to I-85 to/from South Carolina are usually better off switching highways right at Downtown Atlanta rather than tackling the merging madness at Spaghetti Junction.
4) Conclusion - whew! I hope all this helps somebody somewhere out there!!