They contrast this with a happier time that actually was quite short-lived. For many, it’s late July through August, the time when school is out, vacations are in and Congress has left the building. All that goodness doesn’t evaporate in a single day, but it does disappear through September and into late fall.
The real difference-maker between deep summer and September is that so many people will now be trying to make the same trips at about the same time. A study by the D.C. region’s Transportation Planning Board showed the significance of trip times in highway congestion.
The decline in total driving that occurs in July and August is slight, the study said. Yes, many people take summer vacations, but those still around get out more because of the warm weather and extended daylight. The extra summer travel tends to be at midday or in the evening, rather than at rush hour.
When schools are out, parents have more flexibility in timing their work trips. If they don’t have to pack the children off to school and pick them up at set times, they can avoid the peak of the commute. That can lessen overall commuting delays, the study said.
That break ends in September. The study found that the average daily delay per traveler rose nearly 27 percent from August 2011 to September 2011. The average delay was 20.4 minutes that August and 25.8 minutes that September.
Meanwhile, total driving rose by only a moderate amount. Vehicle miles traveled went from 32.71 million miles in August 2011 to 33 million miles September 2011.
Metrorail ridership, which drops in August, will rebound this month, though historically, the average weekday ridership in September doesn’t match the totals for July, a month that tends to be an above average for rail riding, thanks to out-of-town visitors and plenty of activities. Metrobus ridership also rebounds in September from August lows.
10 travel tips for fall
Even as the overall commuting experience worsens, individual trips vary greatly, depending on the route. Here are some of the particular situations that will affect travel, for better or worse.
Beltway in Silver Spring. The rehabilitation of the University Boulevard bridge over the Capital Beltway has been underway for several months, but the orange cones and lane shifts are very evident on those two major commuter routes. The project is scheduled to continue into 2015.