How to Battle Traffic in Atlanta without Going Insane

Despite all of Atlanta’s perks, its oft-loathed traffic emits an exhaust cloud of dread to commuters and visitors alike. But the automotive logjam isn’t unbeatable. Consider the following tips, tricks, and suggestions for dealing with traffic in Atlanta.

Take Alternate Routes

Rush hour traffic on I-285 remains one of the most hated experiences on Atlanta roadways. Consider the following back-road alternatives during peak hours.

  • A total of 5 two-lane roads, Mt. Vernon Road, Dunwood Club Drive, Winters Chapel Road, Oakcliff Road, and Northcrest Road, run almost parallel to I-285 between Dunwoody and Doraville. Although they can also get crowded, they provide a swift escape if you hit them at the right time.
  • Although it’s also known as H.E. Holmes Drive, James Jackson Parkway, and South Cobb Drive, the entire stretch is called Highway 280. Need to travel from I-20 to Marietta, but the west side I-285 looks horrific? This alternate route runs alongside 285.
  • If I-285 gets jammed on either side of town, some recommend taking I-75/85 through Atlanta. Although folks often flock here when trouble arises on I-285, this downtown connector can be quicker than some surface streets.

Check Traffic Reports

WSB Radio, available on 95.5 FM and on 750 AM, continues to be one of the more popular ways for Atlanta commuters to score up-to-the-minute traffic details, including twenty-four-hour traffic information, incident reports, and approximate trip times.

Georgia 511 is also a wealth of information, either through the website or mobile app, which is the official traffic application of the Georgia Department of Transportation. Be sure to pull over or pass your phone to a passenger when you check for traffic updates.

Entertain Your Ears

If you’re alone, the time spent in traffic may be an opportunity to escape the stress of the day through music, audio books, or podcasts. Independent station AM 1690 has an eclectic playlist that runs the gamut from classical to country to vintage soul to early rock. Among its shows, Mike Holbrook’s Radio Free Radio rises to the top. Special guests, including outlaw country icon Billy Joe Shaver, have been known to drop in.

The Atlanta-based daily talk show Comcastro, hosted by Maximüs Groves, puts the spotlight on a variety of professionals in and around the Big Peach. Politicians, scientists, filmmakers, comedians, and a many others talk shop during their respective interviews. Topics range from comic book writing to the art of crowd funding.

Wait Out Traffic

If you can’t stand sitting in the car any longer, Atlanta offers many opportunities to wait out traffic doing something fun. Slingshot Entertainment has 130,000 square feet of action, including high-powered indoor go-kart racing, a swanky fourteen-lane bowling lounge, American Ninja Warrior–style obstacle courses for grown-ups and tots, and an on-site restaurant.

Golfers who are getting antsy waiting in their vehicle, can duck off of a gridlocked 400 and experience Topgolf Alpharetta, a competitive driving range with targets.

If you’re stuck on 285 with impatient kids at rush hour, the Disney Store at Perimeter Mall may be the swankiest of its kind in town, with interactive bells and whistles, and ‘toons on the big screen.

While it can be tough dealing with traffic in Atlanta, indulging in entertaining activities, strategically using traffic reports, and taking alternate routes can help you beat the bottleneck.

Beyond the Repayment Calculator: What You Need to Know about Debt

Remarkably, 80 percent of Americans are carrying around a loan balance, according to Pew Trusts. Of those carrying debt, particularly those with student debt, about 7 million (17 percent) are in default, meaning they haven’t sent in a payment in an entire year, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Chances are you’re one of the millions suffering from a large amount of student debt. Fortunately, there are tools as your disposal. From using a repayment calculator to looking for warning signs, you can find ways to manage your loans.

No Debt About It

First, get smart about your situation. Sit down and record exactly how much, and to whom, you owe. Include a snapshot of how much you earn and spend each month so you can see where you might find wiggle room.

Next, determine your debt-to-income ratio. To find this number, first add up your monthly debt payments. Then divide that amount by your monthly income. Use your gross income—the total before taxes and deductions are subracted—rather than your net income. Your debt-to-income ratio should be at or below 10 percent without including a mortgage, according to the Department of Labor. If you include a mortgage, that ratio can rise to 36 percent and still be healthy.

You can use an online repayment calculator to help you determine how long it will take you to pay off your debt, either when you’re first starting to pay back or if you considering different repayment options.

Avoid Pitfalls

It’s important to determine if you have a problem with debt. The Department of Labor lists red flags to help you identify trouble early on. For example, are you using a new loan to make payments on other loans? Other pitfalls to consider include fielding calls from creditors, maxing out limits on credit cards, and paying only the minimum amount due on bills.

If these things are happening in your life, it’s a signal to step up your efforts. If you don’t take these flags seriously, they could compound, making it harder to dig yourself out.

Going Old School

School debt tends to be in a category of its own. It’s a “good debt” that often goes bad, as described by the U.S. Consumer Finance Protection Bureau. It’s also unique in the way you can stay on top of it. The Department of Education has a number of student debt resources, including payment plans, advice, a repayment calculator, and even loan forgiveness information.

If getting completely out of student debt seems overwhelming to you, focus on achieving a healthy debt ratio first. Once you do, you’ll be able to shift your focus from the past to the future. People commonly assume debt is bad, but that’s not always true. As with many good things in life, debt is a tool that is often misused. The trick is to stay on top of your loans so they work for you, not against you.