This is a question that is on the mind of nearly every person considering a move to San Antonio. And it’s an important question since traffic can affect so much (commute time, time with family, safety). But it’s a question with a nuanced answer. So, let’s break down the traffic in San Antonio and what you can expect should you choose to visit or make San Antonio your permanent place of residence.
Let’s Define “Bad”
We’ll start with defining bad. It’s not at all uncommon to hear about places having “bad” traffic (Washington DC, New York City, Miami, Houston). But “bad” means different things to different people. To some, bad references the volume of cars on the roads. To others, it may be congestion due to construction. And to others, it may be the attitude of the other drivers.
For our purposes, let’s consider it all. “Bad” traffic can be defined as a situation in which drivers have to drive at slower speeds, resulting in longer trip times, risk to safety, and increased frustration. Based on this definition, traffic in San Antonio has its fair share of bad traffic. But there is more to the story here.
Factors that Impact Traffic in San Antonio
San Antonio, like all cities, is unique and has its own set of unique challenges. When it comes to traffic and what causes congestion, there are a number of factors at play. These factors include the following:
San Antonio is Spread Out
The metropolitan area of San Antonio covers more than 505 square miles meaning SA is really spread out. We’re talking 45+ minutes to drive from one side to the other at any given time of day. With this kind of area, owning a car is an imperative. It really is the most effective way to get around the city. Because of this, the vast majority of San Antonio residents have at least one car (if not 2, 3, or more) and this results in lots of cars being on the road. Lots of cars on the road translates to traffic jams.
San Antonio’s vast land area and the need for a car definitely make traffic worse.
Weather is a huge contributing factor to bad traffic with ice, snow, and rain being the biggest culprits. The good news is that this has a major upside for those living in the city of San Antonio – weather events involving ice and snow happen super infrequently which means they don’t factor in at all when it comes to traffic.
Rain and flooding, on the other hand, can cause issues. Though again, SA doesn’t get a ton of rain so this is really only a minimal inconvenience when living here. That said, when it does rain/flood, drivers here really struggle with slick streets. A bit of rain typically results in an abnormal number of wrecks and traffic violations.
But overall, the weather only minimally impacts traffic in San Antonio which means that the vast majority of the time, it isn’t an issue at all.
Like any city, San Antonio has a rush hour. Traffic exponentially increases on weekdays between 6:45am and 8:45am and 4pm to 7pm. In the end, SA is no different than any other major city in the United States when it comes to rush hour delays, and in fact, is better than many cities where it feels like it’s rush hour all the time (yes Austin, I’m looking at you). If anything, I’d say SA’s strictly defined rush hour periods are a benefit because they are easy to avoid with a little planning.
Not gonna lie, this one’s a problem. In the 20 years that I’ve lived here, construction has been a constant. And that includes being in a construction zone on many of the major thoroughfares around the city, making traffic so much worse. There’s really no way to avoid it. Construction is a headache in the Alamo city and contributes to traffic in San Antonio.
A Growing City that the Infrastructure Can’t Keep Up With
Ultimately, this is what makes construction necessary. San Antonio is growing. And fast. The current roads, bridges, bypasses, etc. are not enough to keep up with the growth of the population. So, until new roads can be built, the existing ones can get saturated with vehicles. Two-lane roads weren’t meant to handle the traffic load of a 2 million-person city. This leaves us in a catch-22, saturated roads or construction. Both increase traffic.
Lack of Public Transportation
For a city of its size, it is ridiculous that SA doesn’t have more mass transit options. We do have a bus system (VIA), but the coverage is limited as is the schedule, meaning it isn’t a doable option for many people. Without reliable mass transit, people own cars, which contributes to roadway congestion and traffic.
Car Accidents and Distracted Driving
These two are a little more incidental and not unique to San Antonio. Anywhere you have people driving, you will have accidents and distracted drivers. These two things contribute to an excess of traffic congestion. Is it worse in San Antonio? Not more so than anywhere else in America, but it is still an issue.
How Does San Antonio Compare to Other Cities with Respect to Traffic?
In addition to living in San Antonio, I have spent time living near both Chicago and Los Angeles and can say with confidence, San Antonio’s traffic is no worse than either of those major cities and if anything, it’s better (weather is rarely a contributor as it is in Chicago, and we aren’t nearly as congested as LA is). San Antonio has all of the same problems as most of the major US cities and along with those come traffic. Should you consider moving here, don’t expect worse traffic or “bad” traffic, but just expect traffic. It’s simply part of the experience of living in a bustling city.
Same goes for the attitudes of the drivers here. I regularly hear people complain about other motorists being rude or dangerously aggressive, and that may be so. But again, is it worse than other cities? I don’t think so. There are rude, selfish, and reckless drivers all over, not just in the cities. It’s simply part of the experience of being a driver.
Overall, I feel like San Antonio’s traffic is quite manageable. It certainly isn’t without its frustrations, but it isn’t a 24/7 inconvenience and shouldn’t be a deterrent to anyone considering moving here.
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