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Better commuting - using back roads

Right at the speed limit...
Right at the speed limit...
My cell phone

The problem - lots of NJ traffic!

Most folks who live and work in New Jersey commute to work in their own personal cars. Traffic can be a pretty significant factor in the commute time, and can cause road rage in extreme cases. On highways, traffic is particularly annoying because there's really no getting around it.

The typical approach

Some address this problem through timing adjustments - by leaving the house earlier, they avoid the morning rush. Then, they aim to leave the office early to beat the afternoon traffic. This can work, but it takes a commitment to waking up earlier and thus going to sleep earlier - not particularly attractive for Gen Y. Also, leaving early is not always an option.

A better alternative?

Instead of banking on timing to stave away traffic, it can help to take alternative routes through back roads. Particularly in New Jersey, there are many ways to get from one place to another through various towns. Considering how backed up highways can become, using back roads is a great option that can save time, gas money, and (especially) frustration!

How to start

For a beginner to using back roads, Google Maps is a great place to start. Find home and work, and start to eyeball the general direction and main roads you need to take, starting with your typical commute. If you look up directions, that's probably the route that comes up.

From there, think about what parts of that commute tend to have the most traffic (Google Maps now has traffic information too), and look for ways to bypass those pain points. Perhaps it's entering or exiting the highway at a different exit. Perhaps it's going through small town roads instead of a highway. You may not need to replace your entire commute; start with the most painful parts of it and work from there.

Testing it out

Now, it's one thing to map things out on a computer; it's something different in the driver's seat. This is where having a GPS comes in handy. Thanks to route recalculation, you have the freedom to try new roads on the fly knowing you won't get lost.

Tweaking the route

Once you start using back roads, you'll start to feel more comfortable experimenting with different routes and seeing where they go. As you try new routes, you'll develop a number of options you can choose depending on traffic or preference.

Another way to learn about alternative routes is to talk to co-workers who commute from the same direction. Comparing routes can be a fun way to connect with co-workers, and it can generate different ideas for tweaking your commute. And, if you meet a co-worker who sticks to the highways, you have a golden opportunity to introduce him/her to the joys of back roads!

Try it!

So the next time you leave the office, turn on that GPS and start getting lost (and found) in New Jersey!


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