This might be an unpopular opinion, this might even anger some of you who have ever muttered, “Atlanta traffic is horrible,” but I got some truth coming atcha right now: It’s not the locals who cause the problems, it’s all y’all other people. Follow me please, but not too closely. I’ve been in the Atlanta-Metro area long enough to see some traffic patterns, which I think is the first important point. Before we moved here we had only spent a weekend in Atlanta, and most of the people who groaned when they heard we were moving here, and shook their heads and said, “Oh, the traffic!” have only ever spent maybe, I dunno, a week in the area. Most of them were just driving through. You really have to spend time in Atlanta to “get” the traffic patterns. You have to spend time and exercise patience, because Atlanta doesn’t need you to teach Atlanta how to drive, Atlanta gonna teach you how to drive.
Now before I go any further, I want to clarify something. I’m not saying there isn’t horrible traffic in Atlanta, or that it’s isn’t congested, or dangerous, or even scary at times, it is all of those things. In fact, in the INRIX 2017 Global Traffic Scoreboard Atlanta was ranked No. 8 in the race for world’s worst traffic, stuck in between London and Paris. Now mind you that is for traffic congestion only, but still, it’s not all roses, and I’m not claiming that it is. Atlanta is congested because it is populated, yes, but also because in order to get ANYWHERE in the Southeast United States, you pretty much have to travel through Atlanta. We are the convergence of many interstate highways, including our coveted/despised “Spaghetti Junction” named so because from the air it looks like someone took a bunch of spaghetti and dropped it on the ground. So yeah, we play a major role in getting to anywhere ’round here. We have: Interstates 20, 75, 85 and Georgia 400. I-285 forms a beltway around the city, but don’t even think about calling it a “beltway,” it’s colloquially knows as the “God-damned, piece of shit, Perimeter” and that’s how you know where something is. Is your doctor’s office, for instance, inside or outside the perimeter? If it’s inside, then it’s ITP (ITP! That’s for the Goldbergs fans), if it’s outside it’s OTP (OTP!). And also, if it’s inside, then bless your heart.
We also happen to be a hub for Delta, and a southern hub for Megabus, which provides service to Washington, D.C., New Orleans, New York City, Birmingham, Dallas, Nashville, and Indianapolis, among others. So yeah, people get here, and then they leave, but not before driving around a bit. And therein lies the problem.
I have noticed, from real-world Atlanta driving over the course of the last six months, that people who don’t live in Fulton Country, or Cobb County, or DeKalb County just make things worse. And I have boiled it down to three very distinct reasons. 1. They lack speed and 2. They lack confidence. 3. They are not observant.
The first one is self-explanatory. The 70 mph speed limit is more of a suggestion in Atlanta. In fact, if you are ever going less than 70 miles an hour, you are either on a Megabus, an out-of-towner, or in some type of congestion. That’s it. Otherwise you’re cruising along about 85 and slamming on your breaks when you need to. Case closed. Get new brake pads before you come.
The second one takes a bit more explaining. When I say confidence in driving I mean it in every sense of the word. You have to be confident about where you are going, but also confident that if you happen to get forced into an exit that you didn’t mean to take, you have to confidently take it and find an alternative route. Which is really easy because there are like 17 different ways to get to the same place here. Just keep driving and let your GPS reroute. Simple as that.
I also mean confident in your driving abilities and your decision-making. Look it, if you see that open spot in the lane next to you and you think, hmm, I should maybe, well should I get over, I mean my exit is in two miles and… too late! Someone already took your spot. See what I mean? Make the decision, then do it. Be confident. No need to stick a blinker on, just go fast into that spot, beat that Cadillac Escalade, don’t worry your VW has the power. Unless it doesn’t, then please rent a car that does before you get on the highway.
What happens, more often than not, is that tourists and passer-throughs, cause accidents and delays. They think, for example, that just because they are cruising along at 75 mph at mile marker 53, that they will still be cruising at that speed at mile marker 54, when in reality, no. You never go that fast for that long. There’s always a break check up ahead. Which leads me to No. 3.
Let’s say you’re still thinking about that open spot. No one has taken it yet, and you’re gathering up the courage, but still you’re driving along in the middle lane, minding your own business. You look over one more time and see that it is still open, so you decide to move. You put your blinker on to let the other drivers know you are coming over, then you start to go over, but oh no! You’ve taken too long and someone jumped over a moment before you did. Luckily, you were being observant and saw them. They didn’t indicate, so you had know way of knowing what was coming. See what I mean? What is wrong with these people? You think to yourself, as you try to get back to your original spot, but just then the hair on the back of your neck stands up and you see nothing but break lights ahead so you slam on your breaks, mid lane, which prevents you from both hitting the car in front of you, and being hit by the car behind you which had run up very fast to take your original spot. Good on your for being observant!
See, it doens’t take long to “get” Atlanta traffic, just a bit of trial and error, moving at a much higher rate of speed than you are comfortable with, having a sixth-sense about what other drivers might do, and not wasting time with actually thinking about your next move, just doing it!
Hmm, maybe Atlanta drivers are the problem…? Naaaaah!
Come on down, y’all, we’d love to have you! But maybe fly and we’ll just pick you up at the airport. About the airport… Nah, that’s another post.