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July 9th, 2014 MARTY SMITH | Dr. Know
 

Dr. Know: Commuter Conundrum

Why is traffic so much worse in the evening than in the morning?

drknow-allisonkerekILLUSTRATION: Allison Kerek

I commute from downtown to Tigard via I-5. In the morning, it takes me 20 minutes or less. However, on my way home, traffic is often a parking lot. Where do all these commuters come from in the afternoon? And where were they in the morning?

—Ecubed

Obviously, Ecubed, your fellow wage slaves have been multiplying over the course of the workday. Sorry you weren’t invited, but at least now you know what’s been going on behind that locked copy-room door.

But seriously, folks: My own experience with rush hour may shed some light on your question.

It will surprise approximately no one to learn that I don’t work a conventional 9-to-5 schedule. I file my stories when I feel like it, and I can cook up a batch of meth any old time, so I’ve basically never even seen the morning rush hour. (Once I drove a friend to the airport at 8:30 am, and we were so confused by all the traffic at that ungodly hour we thought the authorities were evacuating the city.)

That said, I—and all those with similar degenerate lifestyles—manage to get caught in afternoon rush-hour traffic all the time.

See, the only people on the road at 7:30 am are the ones who have to be at work at 8. At 5:30 p.m., however, it’s not just everybody who got off work at 5—it’s also me and all the other bums who couldn’t manage to unstick our tongues from the carpet and find our pants until around 4:30 or so.

Supposedly there’s also stuff like picking kids up from school, grocery shopping and yoga class, though it’s hard to imagine that anyone really lives like that. Add it up, though, and you can see how the pm commute outstrips its am counterpart in terms of miles driven.


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