By on February 1, 2018

Weather, at least in this neck of the woods, and especially at this time of year, is more often foe than friend. It certainly was yesterday, when a sudden and very heavy dumping of snow arrived just at the beginning of rush hour, spawning a perfect gridlock that lasted for hours.

While your author didn’t have to drive in it, at least not for commuting purposes, the tangled mess of compact crossover owners all attempting to get to that warm cocoon of beige vinyl they call a home tied up freeway traffic well into the evening. For some reason, nary a plow was to be seen — quite odd for Suburban Canada, as Corey Lewis calls it.

The conditions yesterday mirror those experienced on the longest commute I’ve ever faced. Last year, driving from head office in Downtown Canada (Toronto) to my managing editor’s home in Suburban Downtown Canada (Oshawa), another perfect storm transformed what would have been a basic highway trek into a three hour, 15 minute hell slog. Let’s just say there were no secrets between us by the end of that trip. 

Far worse weather faced me a few years ago, when 20 inches of the white stuff fell by mid-afternoon one day, forcing me, at one point, to thread my front-wheel-drive compact car through a maze of jackknifed articulated buses before finally ramming the vehicle into my snowbound driveway at the highest speed I could muster (something approaching 3 mph). Call it a victory for the conventional FWD automobile.

As hairy as it was, however, that nightmare commute still ate up half the amount of time as the Toronto snowmageddon trip.

Maybe you’ve seen worse. For any number of reasons — snow, rain, ice, flooding, hail, terrorism, accidents, mudslides, earthquakes, wayward blimp — you might have faced a commute so memorable, it’s still brought up at parties and barbecues to this day. It can’t just be a regular trip, either. We’re talking work-to-home or home-to-work; an ordinary daily slog made treacherous (and lengthy) by unexpected events.

So tell us — what happened, where did it happen, and how long did it take you to find your way home?

[Image: Michael Gil/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)]

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79 Comments on “QOTD: The Worst Commute of Your Life?...”

  • avatar
    Chris Tonn

    I don’t recall every detail of the commute..but one summer, I had a job with a 45-minute commute, and I was driving the Miata to save on gas over whatever POS family car I had at the time.

    The A/C hasn’t worked in the Miata since I bought it in 2003.

    The commute took me past a rendering plant and the city dump. Those hot days in standstill traffic, basking in the all-consuming stench of melting flesh and rotting garbage, remains in my nose years later.

  • avatar

    That could be any commute in a CNY lake-effect snowstorm since the CUV craze started. The problems begin with people thinking “all-season” tires are actually a thing. There’s no substitute for snow tires, people who live here should know better. Your SUV/CUV can only go as fast as the car in front of it, so slow down. There are very steep hills here, lots of them, think about what you’re going to attempt and act accordingly. I’ve been driving in this stuff for 40 years and I swear it’s gotten worse with everyone having AWD or 4WD. I won’t even get into people not knowing how to correct a slide, it’s maddening.

  • avatar

    I did a rotation at my first job where I had to drive from Brooklyn to the Bronx. In order to save $8 for the Triboro toll, I grit my teeth and drove on the FDR every day. One day, it took my 3.5 hours to go about 16 miles. From that day on, I just stayed late and took the overtime. Thinking more about it, I should have spent some of that overtime money to pay the toll. Fun times.

    • 0 avatar

      First avenue almost always better, sportyaccordy. before the 2nd ave subway construction started, that is. I drove on FDR astonishingly little when i lived in NYC. Though driving under those big building underpasses was nice at night.

      • 0 avatar

        This was about 10 years ago. I commuted at weird times- 6AM and either 3 or 7PM- so FDR usually worked out OK.

        Later on I got a motorcycle and just commuted within Manhattan from the UES to midtown. I’d just go off of feel for picking my route then. It was always a treat to bomb the 86th St crossover.

  • avatar

    Clinton Township, MI to Plymouth, MI. Usually lasted at least 75 minutes each way (and that was on a good day). Couple that with perhaps the world’s worst roads, ironic, given Detroit is supposed to be the Motor City, and it made for long, arduous days. I really don’t miss that daily commute. Now, when I’m back in the States, my drive is roughly 15 minutes, including time to go through the front security gate.

  • avatar
    Babe RuthLess

    This was a few years ago, 2013 if I’m not mistaken. Rio de Janeiro. The “Yellow line” is an urban highway here that restricts large truck traffic during the day. Some yahoo in a dump truck decided to drive in it anyway, except with the truck bed up to avoid a ticket from one of the automatic numberplate readers. In high speed – you know, to make this quick and further avoid detection.

    Said truck rammed its bed into an elevated pedestrian walkway, sending three people plunging to their deaths in a concreted river in the middle of the highway and bringing down the pedestrian walkway. There it stood, collapsed across the road in both directions.

    Now this is a major tolled highway linking Rio’s densely populated Northern and Western regions. Gridlock lasted the whole day. Thankfully I wasn’t anywhere near near the rougher neighbourhoods this road dissects, but at some point I did see people running (on foot) from trouble up ahead. You see, they abandoned their cars because gangs from said rough neighbourhoods decided to make it day and began to rob commuters, stranded in their cars, at gunpoint. Sitting ducks as it were.

    The criminals didn’t come as far as the point where I was ‘parked’. You can only carry so many iPhones, laptops, wallets and purses while on foot. I did consider leaving the car behind though, when I saw elements of Rio’s notoriously trigger-happy military police, also on foot, making their way to wherever all this was going on. It’s a bad, bad idea to be a bystander in those situations and to be honest the bandits tend to be more sparing in their use of firearms.

    I stood my ground though, and after several hours – maybe three and a half – city officials managed to divert my section of gridlock to a nearby exit. It was another hour before I reached a parking garage near a metro station, left the car and took a metro, bus and taxi ride home.

    In 2014 I moved from a nice two-story house with a swimming pool to a small flat a block and half away from a metro station. And sold my car soon after. Wife still has a car, bless her. Not me.

  • avatar

    Lake St. Louis MO to South St Louis…42 miles each way, mornings weren’t horrible, but afternoons would routinely take 90 minutes to get home, but Fridays were horrible…either people pulling boats headed to Lake of the Ozarks during the summer, or nitwits with Mizzou tiger tails hanging off the back of their cars, headed to Columbia in the fall for Mizzou football weekends. That would turn into a 2 hour + commute, in a 5 speed Audi 100s quattro with no A/C.

    • 0 avatar

      Traffic getting into the St. Louis area on I-70 has gotten a LOT worse since I moved out of the area in the ’90s. I encountered a huge traffic jam starting probably 30-40 miles west of St. Charles and it was a mess all the way to Wentzville. And this was on a Sunday afternoon. Apparently this is the way things are these days.

      Apparently they’re trying to figure out how to fix this (hint, fellas – more lanes might help) but given the current “all taxes are bad” state of Missouri politics, my money’s on nothing happening anytime soon.

  • avatar

    I used to work for a really crappy argentinian pipe manufacturer, let’s call them Tineras, who had a threading facility in Houston. My commute was fine, about 30 minutes each way, but in April of 2016 we had terrible flooding in Houston. I had my truck at the time, a 2WD 6-speed 7.3 crew cab, and I called the automated phone system to see if the plant was open. Couldn’t reach anyone and this was my first experience with driving to work in bad conditions, so I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to do.

    The roads coming out of my town were underwater, with cars popping their wheels up on the curb to try and avoid taking on water. I stopped to help a few cars with my tow strap get off the road and onto a raised gravel lot on the side. Highways were dry, but once I got to the plant, the parking lot had easily 3 feet of water. It was shallow in some spots, but I got water in my headlights from the back where the bulb socket was, and I had just resealed them after cleaning my projector retrofit setup. Turns out work was cancelled so I drove back through it all and called of the next day.

  • avatar

    Just read an interesting article on happiness. People buy huge homes that provide some initial happiness, but they soon just become accustomed to their new residence. However, they are faced with the continued problems of unhappiness derived from an unpredictable, misery-creating commute.

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      I’ll believe that. Our home is a compromise, though a charming one. The upside is that we spend 0 minutes in daily traffic jams. Some slower trundling about town, but no gridlock.

      • 0 avatar

        My partner and I live in between downtown and place of work, 0.5 miles in each direction, for similar ‘quality of life’ issues. We put anywhere between 15-20k on our vehicle in any given year, but that’s all driving to the CrossFit gym in the next town, weekend getaways to the bigger city, and roadtrips to visit family. None of that is commuting. The concept of “traffic” by and large does not exist in western NY, with important but very limited exceptions.

        • 0 avatar
          30-mile fetch

          We’re about 13K/yr and most of that is entirely optional as well. To me, that’s the ideal situation if you can swing it. Individual economics and job situations probably prevent this for many, but giving up a garage and master ensuite floorplan for an old bungalow in an interesting convenient neighborhood adds far more to my quality of life than a drive-until-I-can-afford-it McMansion on a half acre with a bad commute.

          Now, about my damned neighbor…

          • 0 avatar

            Couldn’t agree more. The neighbors are a problem, and so are the students, but I don’t let it bother me. I live in the ‘city’ for its diversity, and unlike Jack, I don’t expect the benefits of diversity with the expectation no one will touch my bumper.

            Speaking of. I used to park in a lot. Someone backed into it, bent the hood. Started parking in front, on the street. students broke the Audi’s mirror. The price of that sucker shocked me, what with heater. auto-dim, memory etc… over 300 bucks. So I start parking in the back. One morning my hood is all bent. i can clearly make the out the cheeks where someone sat on it… I hope it was consensual. Dentless repair fixed it for 100, as long as you don’t mind the hood shaking while under the carwash drier. Finally, some drunk kid walked into our living room and slumped in the chair. That was the weirdest “who are you” i’ve ever uttered. He called me a faggot too, when i tried to point out to him it was not, in fact, his “airbnb” and he needed to leave. Good times.

          • 0 avatar
            30-mile fetch

            That’s absolutely hilarious. The kid is genuinely lucky you are a nice guy.

            Mine isn’t quite that fascinating. I’ve got a BB crater in the middle of my new 4Runner’s windshield from some random midnight sniper that went up the street. Other people lost their side windows in avalanches of safety glass so I got off easy. I was flipped off last summer by someone tearing up and down the street on his ear-shattering bullet bike; he didn’t like me pointing my phone camera at him from the curb. He also never came back.

            The best colorful resident is probably the old guy in the fourplex down the block with some kind of personality disorder. Put him in a suit and he’d have more than a passing resemblance to Steve Bannon. Listening to him rant and holler at the other renters while pacing back and forth across the lawn has been interesting. He once got into a fight with a rake, throwing it tomahawk-style across the yard against the far fence, then yelling at it: “Now I’ve got to &%$#ing go get this &$^#& thing!” before hurling it back to the other side of the yard and then wandering back inside.

            The inlaws live in the “safer” exurbs where the wrong color vinyl fence is a scandal.

  • avatar
    Felix Hoenikker

    Heading back from Edison NJ to PA on I78 on a Friday starting Memorial Day weekend in 2004. A fatality on the east bound side about 7 miles from the Delaware River resulting in the road being closed in both directions. A normal 1 hour 20 minute drive became 4 1/2 hours.
    After that I printed detailed maps using Mapquest so that I could navigate the very back roads if there was a backup on the interstate. They came in handy more than a few times.

  • avatar

    One sunny late-spring morning, I got into the left lane to climb a big grade.

    Rattle, RaTtLe, RATTLE, BANG!

    Conrod through the block and fuel rail; oil, coolant, and gasoline sprayed across all three lanes of I-495 in MA, just north of the I-290 junction.

    At 7:15 AM on a Monday the State Police closed the freeway for cleanup. It didn’t reopen until 10:00. My car was towed home, and I got in the backup car. I drove from Worcester to Concord by way of New Hampshire and still beat the coworkers I’d trapped. Closing I-495N during the morning commute instantly jams I-290E and the Pike in both directions.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    My daily commute now, which is from Edmond, OK (north of Oklahoma City) to Moore, OK (south of Oklahoma City) is pretty dreadful. It’s about 40 miles each way. The main issue is the I-44 / I-235 junction, which effectively narrows down from four lanes to two and has created a major traffic bind for years. They’ve just now seen fit to fix it by expanding the number of lanes, but that’s created even more traffic, as it’s now a construction zone.

    I-235 is pretty much the central north-south artery through the city, and pretty much divides the east and west sides.

    OK-74 / I-44 / I-240 is a much longer trip, and I-240 is equally dreadful and also undergoing construction. Taking I-35 all the way there is well out of the way. A couple of times this month, they’ve shut I-235 down completely because of certain phases of the construction—like building the new bridge for the train tracks—and when I have to re-route to one of those other highways (like everyone else)I can count on my 45-minute commute turning into an hour and fifteen minutes or more.

    Needless to say, I work from home as often as I can.

    As for my worst instance ever, a horrendous snowstorm descended upon OKC around late 2013 / early 2014. I had to pick up my sister from school, which was about 15 miles away and typically a 20-minute drive. Well, conditions were so bad and we all had to drive so slowly—plus there were still a lot of accidents—that it took 2 hours and 30 minutes to get home. Fortunately, I had just replaced the tires.

    • 0 avatar

      Moore, OK. Most people have heard of that town for all the wrong reasons. May 3, 1999 , the highest wind speed ever recorded on Earth, 301 mph. Insane. Another F5 just 14 years later.

      • 0 avatar
        Kyree S. Williams

        Yes, something about this city geographically makes it very prone to tornadoes, which is a concern. I wonder if the insurance costs are higher here.

        • 0 avatar

          My bet is that they are. They’re also very, very high in Texas (tornadoes and hail storms).

          • 0 avatar

            You’re damn right they are. We had a massive hailstorm two years ago this coming April (baseball- to softball-sized), and I managed to get *only* golf ball-sized hail on my Tacoma by deciding to drive south out of town, to try to drive out of it. I’m glad I did that, as everything on it could be fixed by PDR, plus a new windshield and one new headlight. About $7,000 worth of PDR, once the guy was done.

            I’ll never forget that day. I drove back into town after the hail stopped, and saw plenty of cars with massive dents, broken windshields, windows, headlights, taillights, and moonroofs, and people walking around in a daze. Our roof at home had about a dozen holes in it, plus one broken window (basically, any north-facing window got taken out that day).

            My barber told me later that he’d asked the old timers in town about it, and they’d never seen anything like it, going back 80 years.

            I had just dodged another bullet three weeks earlier, when we got golf ball-sized hail. That night (after 10:30) we had ten minutes’ warning that it was coming, so I was able to run over to a local bank drive-thru and hide out under their canopy while the storm came through. The second, worse storm came during afternoon rush hour, and every available place to hide was taken, so it was either stay and ride it out, or try to run. I chose to run.

          • 0 avatar

            What about the scenario when everything gridlocks when the F5’s coming, and people get the idea to outrun it?!

            My fear of storms has abated big-time since I was a kid, but you couldn’t pay me enough to relocate there because of the weather in the spring!

  • avatar

    There have been two:

    Northern Philadelphia Suburbs to Newark, Delaware approximately 70 miles each way(so 140 mi/day x 5 days a week and at the time gas was $4/gal for regular… you do the math! I still shudder at the pain), where on I-95 morning traffic jams start at about 6:30am and afternoon traffic begins about 3:30pm. Other choice is to loop around the other side of the city and pay tolls. Summer time Fridays involve Shore traffic headed to South Jersey which is a whole other nightmare. Regardless someone has an accident everyday (its just a matter of time when its you). With no traffic (rare) commute can be just over an hour at normal road pace. With traffic anywhere from 2-3hours each direction

    Commute to nearest NJ Transit Train station, and experience the luxury (sic) of New Jersey’s finest rail service for ~75miles to Manhattan and watch monthly passes rise in prices from ~$200/mo to $480/mo within 10 years, plus paying for parking, and finally the last mile choice of the subway ~$120/month or walking or Citibike. All in about 2hrs each way (if there are no delays, breakdowns or cancelled trains).

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    I was deployed to Florida after the hurricane last fall, was it Irma? What usually takes about 10.5 hours when driving the speed limit wound up taking 21 hours. We left at 7:30am, our contingent of bucket trucks left about an hour before we did – we caught up to them before we left Virginia.

    The trip was uneventful until we hit South Carolina. It turned out that everyone who evacuated was also on the road that day heading home. 90% of the cars we saw had Florida tags.

    Google Maps kept telling us about shortcuts around traffic onto one lane roads. It would have saved us 30 minutes, 40 minutes, whatever, except for the fact that it was telling everyone else to do the same thing. There was one shortcut where we had a bucket truck following us and when we got off 95, he didn’t. About 90 minutes (and probably 15 miles) later we merged back onto 95 and, I swear I am not making this up, pulled right back in front of the same bucket truck.

    Once we made it through SC, we hit Georgia which has an additional lane so traffic started flowing again, for a while. It started bunching up again. It was about 9pm when we made it to Savannah and whoever was nearby stopped and ate at a Hooters that was closing due to curfew. They let us in since we were trying to help folks. There was about a two hour wait for gas there. We decided not to wait but a couple buckets did.

    After Savannah all of the exits were closed except to local traffic and manned by police. I was driving a rented Expedition filled with all the luggage and food for the crews we were with. At one of the short cuts in SC we passed a gas station. I had more than half a tank of gas at that point but I figured I might as well get some while I had the chance. It was fortunate because since all the exits in GA were closed, you couldn’t get off to get gas. People were running out all over the place. It was very strange, every half mile there would be a few cars grouped together in a makeshift community. I assume they spent the night there since there was no way to get gas and there were way too many to try to help. Plus, traffic was crawling. Stopping to get gas when we didn’t need it saved us.

    Once we passed an open exit which had a gas station, traffic to get to it was backed up about a mile onto the highway, in all directions on the road it was on as far as you could see, and onto the highway in the opposite direction. Thousands of cars were waiting to get gas, and there’s no way people didn’t run out waiting in line and there’s no way the gas station didn’t run out.

    Eventually we made it to Jacksonville at about 3am where we were spending the night. I had about 1/8th tank of gas. All of the local stations were being mobbed, but I ventured out past the highway and found a station with no one there. Meanwhile, the fleet of buckets I was with started rolling in. I had to stay up until everyone got there to give them their bags. The last truck rolled in around 4:30am and I was able to go to sleep. We headed on to Daytona in the morning with much less eventful traffic on the road.

  • avatar

    In 2005 I was living in Baton Rouge, LA (my hometown with bad traffic on a good day), when Hurricane Katrina hit new Orleans, which was about an hour away. The Baton Rouge population literally doubled in a couple of days as people were fleeing from New Orleans.

    My 15 minute commute each way was now 1.5 hours each way. You would try to turn left at a major intersection, but couldn’t cross the intersection for several light cycles because the other traffic was so backed up.

    To make it worse I was doing my medical residency at the time, long hours anyway on top of seeing double the patient load and then the commute on top of that.

    Infuriating but on the flip side I was patient and grateful to still have a home.

    Now live in Tennessee with much better traffic and all of my insurance premiums cut in half.

  • avatar

    Either the five trips in a bus full of high school seniors I was paid to drive into Washington DC in the middle of rush hour and back out again during evening rush hour. Or driving my semi through Boston on I-93 on Thanksgiving day 2017. 3 hours. 9 miles. And my radio had broken that day. I actually set the brakes, went into the sleeper, microwaved a snack and ate it before I needed to inch forward again. That’s how slow we were going.

  • avatar

    Snowmageddon in the DC area, a couple years ago. I watched the radar map and could tell that it wasn’t really going to drop that much snow, but by the time the storm grew into a monster the area roads were at a standstill. I hung around the office for a couple of hours and headed out into the fray. With some heroic, foolish, daring, and lucky maneuvers my 35 minute ride ended at 5 hours when I arrived home where the power was out. Out for four days.

    But the worst I’ve heard of was a couple decades ago in a DC ice storm, when traffic stopped dead on 295 south out of DC and people spent the night there in their cars.

    • 0 avatar

      I tried to drive from Baltimore to Florida in/shortly after that ice storm. I think we go a little ways past the DC beltway before we realized that it wasn’t possible and turned around. Basically even though there wasn’t snow, there were thick chunks of ice on 95 that were so hard it was like ramping a curb every time we hit one.

  • avatar

    Growing up in Northeast Ohio and living in Western Michigan has prepared me for some long drives in the winter. The 9 years I lived in Atlanta was a different beast. Every few years they would get measurable snow, it would just bodyslam the roads. But that was to be expected, outside of the Interstates, they didn’t have the need to deal with snow frequently.

    What used to drive me nuts was when thunderstorms used to blow in from the Gulf. As this would go from southwest to northeast around the city, there would be rolling traffic jams as one part of town got storms, but the traffic would back up and then affect the dry(er) part of town. This resulted in my personal worst, 3.5 hour commute from the north side of town to the airport area on the south side. (37 miles)

    The other side of this was that so many people (it seemed to me) drove around on worn tires. When you’re in a semi-arid place like north-central Georgia and tight on money, one may skimp on replacing tires. But it seemed to me far too many people took that gamble and paid the price for it.

  • avatar

    After graduating from Ball State in Muncie, I moved to Anderson to start a job in Fishers, which is on the north east side of Indianapolis. That in and of itself wasn’t a terrible commute at 30 minutes, and it would be at odd hours, so I wouldn’t have to worry about rush hour.

    Well, that job fell through. But I had a friend who had an office in an old house that was owned by an Indy 500 winner (Wilbur Shaw? I’m not really sure) just off 30th street north of IMS. And it was 9-5, so I would have to deal with rush hour traffic. It was 40-55 miles (depending on whether you used “surface” streets, or the loop all the way around) and 1 hour on a good day. But I-69 from Fishers to I-465 was always a mess, and traffic on the streets were always a bear. Packing a bunch of rude and/or bad drivers on those streets didn’t help. I tried 10 different routes, all were terrible (but at least I didn’t get bored trying).

    It was the worst year of my life. After my lease in Anderson was up I moved a lot closer to work, but still 30 minutes away (very hard to find a cheap apartment with washer/dryer hookups, but cutting off 30 minutes on my commute was a godsend). It wasn’t 2-3 months after that my boss/friend said we were packing up and moving the office into a tech incubator in Anderson. F*** me!

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Unfortunately Steph’s experience is not unique in the GTA. The Toronto area has grown ‘astronomically’ over the past 25 years. Now people are routinely buying homes in separate cities like Guelph, Cambridge, Barrie and Hamilton and commuting to and from Toronto. The population of the inner city has grown as 40+ story condo towers sprout the way that maple trees used to.

    And drivers have become worse. So many who have no idea how to drive in the winter. The first snowfall is generally the worst. Cannot relate how many new or nearly new Mercedes we see sliding into ditches, off the road, etc on the slightest inclines.

    Toronto has not added a major road or highway since the 407 and back in the 1980’s sold off all the land that it had accumulated for future highways.

    Subway construction was largely stalled and is still being debated, with little progress.

    I am lucky enough to work/live very close to the 407 so spend $18 per day on tolls. After tax dollars at that. But the difference in time (30 minutes versus 90 minutes), fuel consumption, wear and tear on the vehicle and my nerves, makes the cost ‘worth it’.

  • avatar

    For one year in the late 90’s drove 101 miles one way from Sacramento over the Altimount to Fremont then late afternoon return. 7 hours shifting, clutching, working a cell phone in a 4 Runner.

    Last manual I owned.

    • 0 avatar

      Living in Fremont now, I can’t imagine. Though – what was in Fremont? Seems like in the past there were more jobs actually in Fremont than there are now.. I work at 237/101, but thankfully, only have to go to the office 1-2 days a week, and even then, can skip rush hour.

      • 0 avatar

        Yep, my 30 mile commute from Castro Valley to Sunnyvale is anywhere between 40 mins (no traffic) to 1hr45 (regular rush hour). For obvious reasons I only show up in the office about once a week, if that.

  • avatar

    For those who didn’t live or grow up in an area where these things exist, let me layout the “Snow Emergency” system works in Ohio – declared by county sheriff’s department

    Level #1: Is this trip necessary? We’d really prefer you stay home.
    Level #2: Only absolutely essential travel. – School buses not permitted on the roads.
    Level #3: If we catch you on the road we will arrest you.

    This is to facilitate clean up efforts and reduce accidents while local law enforcement is dealing with “snow-ma-gedon”.

    The problem is that it is up to each county sheriff’s department to make the determination. During college I was close enough to home that I would go home for breaks and commute to campus for my on campus job. Being in the M&O department meant we worked even when classes weren’t in session. It should have been a 30 min commute.

    During one storm the county I lived in was at a “Level #3” but the county I worked in was still at “Level #1” this discrepancy was due to the GM Foundry in the county I worked in and pressure that was put on the sheriff’s department to not have shifts cancelled by weather.

    Being young, stupid, and desperate for that sweet sweet minimum wage money. I ventured out in those conditions. My 30 min commute took 2 hours. I didn’t get arrested – but I still feel foolish for taking an unnecessary risk. The front heavy FWD Celebrity performed well.

    • 0 avatar

      A few years ago, winter 2014, IIRC, I went to back out of my garage, which hadn’t been plowed yet. The surrounding counties to Lucas (where I work — downtown Toledo) and Wood (where I live — Perrysburg) were at Level 3, but Wood was at Level 1, since there wasn’t more than a couple inches south of Luckey/Bowling Green, and Lucas was at Level 2. So I had to go in — the office hadn’t been closed.

      I think there were seven inches on the ground, with a foot drift outside my garage! Should have been a signal to put the car back in the garage! After five minutes of driving less than a quarter-mile, I was on the rut..err..MAIN STREET, then out to I-75!

      A full hour later, I had gone the ten miles up I-75 (with one sorta-plowed lane of three), and settled in at my desk, a half-hour late, when the word came down that Lucas County had gone to a level 3! After the he11 I had just been through, I was going to at least get SOMETHING done, and better without the phone ringing every two minutes, and at least, I figured I’d make the trip in DAYLIGHT! Ended up staying until noon, and drove home on the same conditions!

      Wood County ended up at a Level 2, with folks vowing to vote the Sheriff out for that day (they didn’t), and the speculation was that the Lucas County Sheriff waited to go to Level 3 until the 1st shift had reported to the Jeep plants in North Toledo.

  • avatar

    2-3 years ago a mudslide closed northbound I-5 between Portland and Seattle. Unbeknownst to google maps, the same conditions had also washed out every alternate road heading S-N in the entire western half of the state. The only way to get to Seattle would have been to retreat to the columbia river gorge, cross the cascades to eastern WA, drive up through Yakima and Ellensburg and cross the cascades again on I-90W.

    This became clear to me only in retrospect, as I spent several bewildering hours following increasingly deranged and optimistic google maps prompts onto country roads that were inevitably 7ft underwater up ahead. We finally just pulled over and got a hotel for the 20 hours it took to clear the freeway.

  • avatar

    When anything happens on Merritt Parkway in CT you get your worst ride. Standing in line on 95N to cross George Wash. Bridge (ez pass or not) is another nightmare.
    I am not bothered with snow as long as I can move. Just a month ago drove from Boston and till Hartford there was between 4-10 inches. Sometimes extremely low visibility. I passed every car that was driving in that direction. But when snow was over, cars started to pass me.

    • 0 avatar

      the Merritt Parkway, where the corrupt socialist shithole of CT wastes $$$$ paving over and over for no reason, and where the “stimulus” money went to installing wooden divider barriers instead of widening the ancient road. Because, you know, wooden barriers will do so well in new England freeze thaw cycles. I’m waiting for the first impalement to occur after a crash.

  • avatar

    Reading to Allentown, PA. For a retail job. Whenever it snowed, it would take me hours to get home.

    I knew people who commuted from Allentown to NYC (Manhattan, no less) every day. Can’t even imagine what kind of hell that was.

  • avatar

    Not a commute per se, but every time I have to go to LAX it’s a massive pain.

  • avatar

    Growing up in Kitchener and having frequent jobs in Toronto has led to a few interesting commutes. Keep in mind, this was BEFORE the insane explosion of the last 10 years that Arthur has described. Rough distance for these commutes was approx 100 km (60 miles) one way. Others have described GTA weather issues – these aren’t even weather related..

    1) 1990-1992, I had jobs at IBM (UWaterloo co-op). Decided I wanted a car and would suffer through the commute, instead of getting a room (well, duh – I’m on this site, am I not? :-) Go to bed at 10:00 (my whole family is night owls – before midnight was really unusual!), get up at 5:00 am, try to get on the road by 6:00-6:30. If you weren’t on the road by 6:30, it would take an extra 30 minutes or so to get there (over and above the regular 1.5 hours). Home was usually the same – 1.5 hours or so, except Fridays, 2 hours minimum. My rule of thumb was: if you weren’t ON the road by 4:00 (preferably 401 around Don Valley), don’t bother. 1990 was a very hot summer, and no A/C in my first car (’84 Jetta GLI) – A/C wasn’t a “standard” thing in cars in Canada until the late 80s or early 90s, IIRC. So what did they do in 1990? MAJOR construction overhaul of the 401 around HWY 24 in Cambridge. And one Friday (when I was trying to make it for a softball game!), they decided THAT was the right time to work on the bridge just after the gas station just north of Cambridge (McDonalds at the time, not sure if it still is) on 401 west. Usually, it was 1:30-1:45 TO that gas station, and another 15 minutes to home. This time – 1 hour, I kid you not, in ~30C weather to get from that gas station to the bridge – it was down to ONE (*&@#$ lane, and only letting cars go through some of the time on a FRIDAY in the heat. As soon as I was past that bridge, empty roads. Turned a 1.5-2 hour ride into 3+ hours due to that 1-2 miles..

    2) In 2001, I had a job just about downtown (Dufferin/Gardiner area). I used to drive at odd hours, just to avoid traffic (i.e. leave at 11:00 am, get to work at 12:00, work until 10:00-11:00, drive home). Still some traffic at those times, but not insane – usually 1 hour each way, cruising at 120-140 km/h – and still getting passed by trucks around midnight!! And the odd time a little faster – had a ’94 Corrado VR6 + supercharger + gearing).. One day, with no warning at all, pulled onto the Gardiner, and 3 seconds after getting on, BAM, total snail’s pace. No warning – seems they missed putting up the “construction” sign at the on-ramp I used. And they had (*&@$ closed all the off-ramps until Islington or Kipling. My Corrado had a “distance/time” computer. It read: 1 hour, 8 km, 8 km/h (5 miles, 5 mph). Imagine going at 5 mph (constant stop/start) for a full hour, when you were expecting to cruise home at the end of a long day at 80 mph+… UGH. At least it was around midnight and I had A/C this time..

    • 0 avatar
      Arthur Dailey

      In the mid 70’s for a while I lived in Scarborough (east end of the GTA) and worked in Kitchener. The 401 was only 2 lanes west of Dixie Road and traffic going both ways was minimal. Now the line of vehicles commuting into the GTA from Cambridge/Kitchener/Waterloo stretches for miles and hours.

      But then during the late 1970’s there were many times when mine was the only vehicle to be seen on the Don Valley Parkway. Used to start work at 5:45am and could basically set my own speed cruising from the 401 to the Richmond Street off ramp. Cannot imagine that ever happening again.

  • avatar

    December 13, 2007 in the Boston metro area was perhaps the gnarliest single commute I ever had. At the time, I lived about 2.5 miles away from my place of work, and it’s a fairly straight forward commute. All local streets, and I would ride my bicycle during the summer. But this snowstorm hit at the worst time of day (3 PM), schools and government offices closed, and it took me 2.5 hours to make it to a place I was able to park. I actually had to stop for gas because I was fairly low on my tank.

    I didn’t even go all 2.5 miles either, I had to park at a downtown garage because of a snow emergency and walk half a mile home too.

  • avatar

    I’ve been very lucky with commutes in my life. I’ve never had one that was longer than 40 minutes under ideal conditions.

    Maybe the worst that ever happened to me was during the infamous 1999 WTO protests in Seattle. At the time, I worked in a hotel in the center of downtown and lived in a city neighborhood about 6 miles away. (Yes, there was a time when low-wage workers could afford to live in Seattle!) Usually it was a quick 25-minute bus trip to work, or I could have driven in 15 minutes if there had been parking my broke self could afford. But the WTO protests completely stopped all buses that ran through downtown. Once I realized that was happening, I quickly left my apartment and started walking. Nearly two hours later, I arrived at work. Turned out I was one of the only ones able to get there at all, and I worked for the next 32 hours with just a nap break at one point, including while the lobby filled up with tear gas after a few protesters got “moved on” outside.

    By the time I was actually able to leave, buses were running again and I just took the bus home like normal.

  • avatar

    I had just gotten headers put on and the car dyno tuned. I promptly got on the highway and spent 2.5 hrs in creeping traffic until I got home. I didn’t even get one good on-ramp pull. I wanted to end it all right there.

  • avatar

    For those who are from Boston know that Sept 1st is always the worst day of the year for traffic…unless it falls on a weekend then it’s a godsend.

    Hundreds of thousands of university students moving into the city, UHaul trucks everywhere, box trucks wedged under Storrow Drive, double parking, triple parking.

    It’s bad. I think my worse is maybe 2.5 hours to go 25 minutes.

  • avatar

    I know not what you speak of. I have not had a commute in 12+ years. Remote work ftw!

    • 0 avatar

      Yep. My last job was a remote gig and lasted for seven years. It’s a blessing.

      • 0 avatar

        I’m coming upon my 1 year anniversary of being remote. I don’t know how I’ll ever work in an office again, this is every geeks dream! I used the opportunity to buy an impractical car which I only drive when I feel like it and never during rush hour.

        Hooba porkrind!

  • avatar

    My commute from the Seattle area east side to downtown Seattle in the Mercer/South Lake Union area. Every f***king day.

    It’s about an hour to get to work on a good day, 14 miles, not horrific. It’s about two hours to get home. Most of that trying to get out of the black hole that is the Mercer Street area of Seattle. Leaving as late as 7 or 7:30 PM barely helps on many days.

    Oh, and if there is one single wreck, one single person pulled over by the police for a HOV violation or talking on their cell phone (because they sure won’t be stopped for speeding) then it becomes complete gridlock.

    In the summer the militant cyclists make it 100X worse in downtown Seattle.

    It is soul crushing.

    • 0 avatar
      Landau Calrissian

      Tacoma resident here! We’re putting a home purchase on hold because the wife’s job is a bit iffy at the moment, so if she has to get a new job, likely in Seattle, we don’t want to get trapped in that hellhole commute.

    • 0 avatar

      my brother went to grad school at UW, i visited for 4 days, son never came out once. he claimed the rain was over-reported. I don’t buy it. between 300 cloudy/rain days and the loons running the city, you could to even visit again.

      • 0 avatar
        30-mile fetch

        I’ve visited Seattle three times. Twice, it was sunny and gorgeous. Lucky roll of the dice! The third was February rain and gloom. I was caught in an utterly inexplicable molar-grinding midday traffic jam north of downtown. Between the traffic, eternal grey, and stranger than fiction real estate prices, that place can never be home.

    • 0 avatar

      And this is a major reason I moved back into the city. If all else fails, I can walk between office and home in about 50 minutes.

  • avatar

    Fort Collins to Greenwood Village (south of Denver). 70 miles on the clock each way, if you’re lucky it only takes 1.5 hours to do.

  • avatar
    Rick T.

    All variations on a theme of snowstorms and Chicago area roads. One time it was over 4 hours to get 23 miles from Schaumburg to downtown. Even went to dinner and a movie in the hopes that traffic had cleared somewhat.

    Now here in middle TN I just stay home and wait for the snow/ice to melt.

  • avatar

    Maine doesn’t really have much for terrible commutes, so the worst I’ve ever experienced was trips to Ontario to see my family.

    The worst one was over the Civic holiday weekend in August several years ago. Ended up being about a 2 hour border delay at the Queenston/Lewiston crossing. Couldn’t go anywhere, just had to sit there and try to not pee my pants as the line slowly moved along.

    Second worst was when I went to visit in December and the Toronto area received their first snowfall of the year that night. I hit the Red Hill valley parkway at the evening rush hour time and the parkway was actually a parking lot. Sat in traffic for an hour because no one could figure out what to do when it snowed.

  • avatar

    Ottawa Canada, starting in January 2009 was the worst 51 days of commuting for me.
    I take the bus to work (45min-1hr) each way. Then the bus drivers went on strike for 51 days. It was utter chaos. I then had to take my car to work and most days it would take 2.5-3 hours each way, it was gridlock everywhere. On top of it my 1.5 year old wasn’t sleeping through the night. Fun times. If the bus drivers ever go on strike again I’m instantly taking 4 weeks vacation.

  • avatar

    Round trip from Tampa to Orlando via I-4. I make the trip several times per year for work-related conferences and sometimes to take the kids to Disney. Regardless of what time of the year I drive it or the time of day, it always seems to be a parking lot full of wayward tourists and old geezers who have no idea where they’re going.

    Additionally, Orlando seems to have more toll booths than other city I have visited in my 38 years on this planet.

  • avatar

    South San Jose (Almaden) to Palo Alto, back in the late 90’s. The onramp to Rt 85 was metered. One mile from my condo and on average it took me 25-30 minutes before I got on the highway itself. Then it crawled the rest of the way, letting up slightly on 280 near Palo Alto.

    I gave up and just started driving in the HOV lane. Both to skip the onramp, and then while on the freeway. Got two tickets. Money well spent, as I saved almost two hours a day. Then I moved away from that hell hole.

    • 0 avatar

      Wow, can’t believe it was this bad back then already, although the dot com bloom was full on so that may have had something to do with it. I noticed that now it’s even way way waaaaay worse compared to when I first moved to the Bay area in 2011. Carpool lanes are also mostly useless due to all the EVs.

  • avatar

    It was New Years Day 1999. My roommate and I traveled from Sacramento to San Diego to party with a friend of ours for New Years. We had tickets to fly out on January 2, giving us a day to recover (January 1). However, we both felt fit enough to travel on January 1 so we changed our tickets. BIG MISTAKE.

    The fog set in and every flight across all airlines was cancelled. When we finally got to the ticket agent after a 1.5 hour wait, we were told the earliest they could fly us back to Sacramento was 2 days from now.

    We decided to rent a car and make the 10 hour drive as we could not take more time off work. Everything was fine until we dropped down into the Central Valley off The Grapevine.

    Unbeknowst to us, the Tule Fog had settled in. Just do yourself a favor and Google it….its….insane.

    Long story short, it turned a 10 hour trip into an 18 hour slog. You could drive no faster than 20 mph staring 10 feet in front looking at the little white line while the passenger was looking for tail lights. THE ENTIRE DRIVE.

  • avatar
    Chris from Cali

    When I was working for govt agency as a translator, I had to drive to wherever the work was (usually in LA or OC), but my work had dried up to the point where I had to commute to Camarillo, CA. If you know CA geography (or can manipulate Google Maps), I was driving from *deep breath* San Clemente, CA to Camarillo, CA every day. OOOF.

    I ended up working double shifts to cut the number of drives, but we’re talking 0400 departure for a 0700 start time, then home circa midnight or 0100. Needless to say, I couldn’t do that for too long.

    And did I mention this was in LA traffic in an S2000?

    I should have just rented a hotel room.

  • avatar

    One time I was stuck on the Bay Bridge when the exit ramp of the bridge had a car carrier accident. Ended up stuck on the bridge for 4 hours.

  • avatar

    My worst commute is on those days when my gout is acting up. Makes the walk from my bedroom to my desk in the living room quite painful and slow. Sometimes I just work from bed instead. Otherwise I am 10 minutes from the airport in Maine, or 45 minutes in Florida, but no real traffic either way. Security at Ft. Myers takes twice as long (10 minutes instead of 5) in season than out though – soooooooo many old people… Security in Portland is basically instant for an Exec Platinum with PreCheck. A “line” is two people…

    Long commutes by car just suck. This week I am working in downtown Atlanta. Thanks to a bunch of movie shoots going on, there were zero, zip, nada hotel rooms downtown. I ended up by the new ballpark in Smyrna. Thankfully, a flexible client so I just waited until 10am to head into downtown everyday, making for a smooth 20 minute drive (MB C300 courtesy of Sixt). But the first night I left at 5:30pm and it took nearly 90 minutes to drive the 13 miles, much of it just getting to the @##[email protected]#[email protected]# highway, not helped by major road closures due to the aforementioned movie shoots. Nope. You literally could not pay me enouugh to put up with that BS every day.

    Similarly, couple weeks ago it took almost an hour in an Uber to go from the Santa Ana Airport to Anahiem at 3:30 in the afternoon. Like 7 miles or something. How do people deal with that day in and day out? I would litterally kill people.

  • avatar
    Pete Kohalmi

    I’ve just about had it with my current commute from central NH down to the suburbs of Boston. 53 miles each way. About 1 hr 15 min on average. Tomorrow is Friday which could be a 2 hr commute home. Been doing it for 4 1/2 years. People who have never had a long commute do not understand the toll it takes on you.

    Worst single commute was when a carjacker went berserk and went on a rampage on the highway, leaving a huge pile-up behind him. Highway was closed for hours.

  • avatar

    Three and a quarter hours from downtown Toronto to Oshawa? Good Lord!

    It’s been decades since I’ve travelled the greater Toronto area, but back in the early seventies, I remember doing Cannonball Runs from St. Catharines to Oshawa along the QEW/427/401 in two hours to visit my girlfriend of the time for the day. The express lanes were not much different than now, but the volume has likely tripled.

    • 0 avatar
      Arthur Dailey

      We used to make frequent runs to Niagara Falls from the eastern GTA and during the nights and weekends (unless they were a long weekend) would cruise along the Gardner/QEW.

      Now forget it. The distance hasn’t changed (of course) but the average travel time has tripled and often takes longer than that.

  • avatar

    2 christmas’s ago me and a friend commuted from a small town 2 hours out of the twin Cities all the way to Chicago. Left at noon and drove in basically whiteout conditions the entire way their. 8 hour trip took 13 hours. We only stopped twice. My adaptive cruise control on the lincoln didn’t work because the sensor got covered and my buddy didn’t have cruise control in his older model focus.

  • avatar

    For a nine-month period, I had a 61-mile commute from Mayville, NY, to Buffalo NY on the Cheektowaga city line. Long story how that came to be – I worked out of CSX’s Frontier Yard in Buffalo; but owning a house in Erie County was intolerable. Taxes, but that wasn’t the worst – the village and town were worse than any HOA I’d ever had to deal with. I sold out, fast…and, rentals in Buffalo are not cheap nor easy to find. There’s a story behind THAT, too…but I got a seasonal rental in Chautauqua County, off-season…rich-people’s housing on a lake. The long commute was a problem but I worked a road job, and only had to make two round trips a week. Drive to work; take a train to Ohio; stay overnight; take a train back; stay at home for 24 hours.

    But in winter…I had the slop-storms coming off the Western end of Lake Erie; I had the Buffalo Skyway (built over the river to allow the ore and grain boats to get through…which hadn’t been in there for decades). The Skyway was a 1950s proto-elevated freeway…WITHOUT SHOLDERS. And it got windy up there.

    Follow Lake Erie to Fredonia; and head inward. Climbing up…the Lake Erie snow machine. Nor did I have four-wheel drive.

    In good weather it was…a nuisance, unless my call time coincided with traditional rush-hour commuting. But in bad weather…it was frightful. I worked “on-call” with a two-hour lead; but one could watch the computer progression of the Available list to make a judgment. More than one night I spent money I didn’t have to get an overpriced Cheektowaga motel room.

    Part of that route was the same one I used to commute 25 miles, Cheektowaga to Town of Evans, to my humble hovel. I was living there, and driving home, when that freak 2001 snowstorm, the one that dumped FOUR FEET of snow on Buffalo in six hours…went through.

    My commuter was a Geo Metro. By indescribable miracle, I made it all but the last mile, to my dead-end street…which the county had, predictably, not plowed.

  • avatar

    When the great recession hit in 2008 I was into my 5th year of working for a contract engineering company, on a long-term on-site placement at a customer in the business of making compact construction equipment of a sort that homebuilders tend to buy. I’d settled in the small town in rural North Dakota where the customer company had originated and where its design site was (and where its manufacturing still is.)

    Suddenly in mid-September 2008, most of our services were no longer going to be needed as of the start of the 4th quarter. I ended up getting reassigned to the Fargo office of my employer at the time till something different could be sorted out.
    With that change I went from the ~1 mile commute that I had been used to (all the way across the town), to an 85 mile commute one-way. At least it was on 65 MPH state roads and a 75 MPH interstate.

    It ended up only being for a month till I rented a new apartment in Fargo, but it was a long month. Between commuting, driving around apartment-hunting in Fargo, and a trip or two to my parents’ farm to put nonessential items somewhere I could deal with them later, I drove about 5000 miles just in that month of October… using up a whole oil change cycle on my ’96 Thunderbird, and much of one on my ’05 Dakota.

  • avatar

    I’ve driven in terrible traffic in almost every major city in the US and Canada, but surprisingly the worst has to be San Juan, Puerto Rico.

    I was driving a rental Trailblazer with four co-workers from Rio Piedras to Condado via PR-18 after a day of meetings. This section of the freeway has what the locals call The Zipper; a set of concrete barriers that a machine moves left or right to provide an additional inbound or outbound lane depending on the time of day. Our drive is at most 10 miles but when we merge into 18 traffic is stopped. We crept along for quite a while, and at one point a guy slid next to us in a big truck that I joked to everyone looked like a knacker wagon. We continued to creep along and when it looked like maybe things were starting to break up, the guy in the truck suddenly pulled over onto the inside shoulder. This gave me a perfect view of the traffic problem; there was a dead guy laying in the lane just to my left. Oddly, there weren’t any cops or anything around the guy and I passed literally 3 feet from his bullet riddled body. I remember looking over and saying “Yep, he’s dead”. Turns out the guy in the truck WAS the knacker and he was stopping to pick up the body.

    It ended up taking us over 3 hours to go those 10 miles, but we had a story to tell over our Medallas that night.

  • avatar

    The worst commute? Anytime it snows in Portland or Seattle. You’d think we’d know how to drive in the snow here in the PacNwst… but you’d be wrong. Combine wicked hills with inexperienced snow driver’s that haven’t been here long (yes, Californians, I’m talking about you), and it’s the recipe for total gridlock. Last year it took 8 hrs to get from downtown to Hillsboro- a 12 mile drive.

  • avatar

    North San Diego on might have been highway 76. Traffic was at a standstill for a few hours because the police had closed the freeway. A mentally disturbed woman was on the freeway with a gun. It was a hot day and we had no A/C.

    To their credit the police did get the woman off the freeway without anyone physically harmed.

    That was bad but not as bad as traffic caused by bad behavior:

    Backups caused by rubberneckers.

    Gangs of dipshits shutting down roads during rush hour to hoon

    Impatient jerks cutting ahead in merging lanes.

    People who get into a minor fenderbender and wait around in the middle of the freeway waiting for the police to show up.

    Vehicles that drop large hazards on the road due to improper tiedowns. Like a box spring or dishwasher.

    I can accept traffic due to road repair, acts of God, etc but IMO its when the cause is acts of carelessness, selfishness and/or stupidity it becomes the WORST traffic.

  • avatar

    Commuting in general is the worst. I can recall two occasions that were standouts.
    From the late 1970s until the late 1990s I drove on L.A.s 405 over the Santa Monica mountains. Since I traveled the opposite of most of the traffic, north in the morning and south in the afternoon, it was usually okay. About a half hour to go the 22 miles, much of the trip on city streets with signal lights to wait for. Going home was the dicey bit. A crash, even with the vehicles out of the road, could slow things considerably. The night in question it was over three hours. There are few roads that go over those mountains and you can see the “old” route, Sepulveda blvd, from the freeway. It was at a stop also with the off ramps backed up onto the shoulders. Going down the hill into W.L.A. I shut the engine off and let off the brake when the cars ahead moved every 5 to 15 minutes.
    I found out later that there was a Ted Nugent show at the Forum, which was another ten miles south of where I lived. This was around the early 1980s and Ted was a big deal.
    Twenty some years later when I had moved north and west there was one of SoCal’s seasonal brush fires. Pushed by strong North East winds these things are almost unstoppable. The usual road I drove with my S.O. was closed. We went south to the 101 which, of course everyone else was doing. Driving through smoke we got to Thousand Oaks at about 8PM, we left Chatsworth at 5. We ate dinner at a restaurant and got home after 9. Just enough time for a shower before sleep.

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