Each year, INRIX releases a report regarding Thanksgiving congestion. Here are predictions for the Chicago area:
Along with Chicago, highways in Atlanta, New York City and Los Angeles will be the busiest, according to data analytics firm INRIX. To avoid the worst congestion, INRIX recommends traveling early Wednesday, or before 11 a.m. Thanksgiving Day…
The report predicts almost double the typical traffic along a westbound stretch of Interstate 290 from Chicago’s Near West Side to suburban Hillside, peaking between 3 and 5 p.m. Wednesday. Significant additional congestion is expected Wednesday along the same stretch of eastbound I-290, with an anticipated 84% spike in traffic…
The outlook isn’t much brighter for travelers flying out of the city. Chicago-based United Airlines expects O’Hare to be its busiest airport, with more than 650,000 customers anticipated for the holiday. It reports Sunday, Nov. 27, will be its busiest travel day since before the pandemic, with 460,000 travelers taking to the skies. Nationwide, the airline awaits more than 5.5 million travelers during the Thanksgiving travel period, up 12% from last year and nearly twice as many as in a typical November week…
“Regardless of the transportation you have chosen, expect crowds during your trip and at your destination,” Twidale said. Travelers with flexible schedules should consider off-peak travel times to avoid the biggest rush.
The last paragraph quoted above might be key: given the predicted congestion, will people choose different times and days to travel? And, if enough people do this, will the model be wrong?
Transportation systems can only handle so many travelers. Highways attempt to accommodate rush hour peaks. Airports try to handle the busier days. Yet, the systems can become overwhelmed in unusual circumstances. Accidents. Pandemics. Holiday weekends where lots of people want to go certain places.
If enough people hear of this predicted model, will they change their plans? They may or may not be able to, given work hours, school hours, family plans, pricing, and more. These are the busiest times because they are convenient for a lot of people. If all or most workplaces and schools closed for the whole week, then road and air traffic might be distributed differently.
I would be interested in hearing how many people need to change their behavior to change these models. If more people decide they will leave earlier or later Wednesday, does that mean the bad traffic is spread out all day Wednesday or the predicted doomsday traffic does not happen? How many fliers need to change their flights to Saturday or Monday to make a difference?
If people do change their behavior, perhaps this report is really more of a public service announcement.