If you were due back at work promptly the day after Christmas (or Thanksgiving) you can at least take solace in one thing: The traffic was almost assuredly much better than normal.

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Here’s how to solve traffic: Make every day the day after a major holiday.

Yes, there are some practical problems to this approach, related both to plausibility and circular reasoning.

But the numbers don’t lie. Far fewer people headed into work on Tuesday than normally do, resulting in relatively empty buses and open freeway lanes. And far fewer people headed into work on the day after Thanksgiving than go to work on a normal day, according to highway data from the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT).

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In South Everett, southbound traffic on Interstate 5 usually spikes between 5 a.m. and 6 a.m. on weekdays, as commuters heading to Seattle start early on what has become a brutal commute. The average weekday sees about 5,000 cars headed south at this time. On Tuesday, the day after Christmas, there were fewer than 4,000.

Tuesday’s traffic volumes on southbound Interstate 5 in South Everett. (WSDOT)
Tuesday’s traffic volumes on southbound Interstate 5 in South Everett. (WSDOT)

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The same pattern, not surprisingly, held true the day after Thanksgiving. The morning commute on Black Friday saw only about half the traffic it normally does, with about 2,500 cars headed through South Everett.

Black Friday traffic volumes on southbound Interstate 5 in South Everett. (WSDOT)
Black Friday traffic volumes on southbound Interstate 5 in South Everett. (WSDOT)

It was the same story for commuters headed north into Seattle. Northbound I-5 at Tukwila typically sees about 6,800 cars a day at its peak, just after 5 a.m. On Tuesday there were only about 5,200.

Tuesday’s traffic volumes on northbound Interstate 5 in Tukwila. (WSDOT)
Tuesday’s traffic volumes on northbound Interstate 5 in Tukwila. (WSDOT)

The day after Thanksgiving there were barely 3,000.

Black Friday traffic volumes on northbound Interstate 5 in Tukwila. (WSDOT)
Black Friday traffic volumes on northbound Interstate 5 in Tukwila. (WSDOT)

If all of this seems fairly obvious — lots of people take a day off the day after a holiday — well, it is. But if you’re one of the ones who was back at work promptly, at least the traffic probably wasn’t too bad.