Gridlock Guy: Mystery solved! KSU springbreak calmed I-575 commute

March 17, 2013 By Mark Arum For the AJC Last week in this column I discussed what I considered a…

Georgia (Mar 19, 2013) — March 17, 2013


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By Mark Arum

For the AJC

Last week in this column I discussed what I considered a traffic mystery. I was perplexed by the extremely light traffic on Interstate 575 in Cherokee County the work week of March 4 through March 8. My hope was that we were starting to see a trend of improved traffic on the usually very busy interstate. My hopes were dashed after the column was published as scores of informed readers answered the mystery. Traffic was much lighter on I-575 that week because Kennesaw State University was on spring break.

The answer was so obvious that I am embarrassed that I couldn’t figure it out on my own. Usually we are alerted to school closings and are aware when major institutions or jurisdictions are not holding classes. With this knowledge we can accurately predict, generally speaking, how traffic patterns will be impacted.

For some reason, the fact that KSU was on spring break didn’t filter into the traffic center.

In hindsight, it makes perfect sense. With almost 25,000 graduate and undergraduate students, Kennesaw State not being in session obviously had a major impact on traffic in the region.

What we learned was the huge impact those KSU students have on the morning commute. With the commuting Owls taken out of the traffic equation, trip times on I-575 southbound in Cherokee County were cut in half or more. When classes resumed last Monday, the gridlock predictably returned to normal.

What is interesting to note is that this is the first time that I can remember that a major college or university’s spring break made a noticeable impact on traffic. When Georgia Tech, Georgia State or Emory are off for spring break, we usually don’t see a vast improvement in trip times or traffic backups. Even in past years, when KSU was on spring break, I can’t remember seeing the traffic flow improve as much as it did this year.

Historically, the only time college campuses seem to really impact the traffic flow, is during graduation ceremonies. The delays surrounding Emory’s commencement ceremonies are legendary in the traffic reporting world.

A large number of readers also alerted me to the fact that private schools in the metro area were on spring break the week of March 4 as well. I have no doubt that this also affected traffic that week. It’s interesting to note that the only interstate that showed marked improvement was I-575 in Cherokee County. To me that is a clear indicator that it was the lack of Kennesaw State students on the roads that helped commuters to enjoy such a smooth ride.

In the WSB Traffic Center we are very aware of all things that could impact your ride. Federal holidays, teacher workdays, school vacations, etc. are always marked clearly on our traffic calendar so we know in advance what to expect for that day’s commute. You can be sure that the Kennesaw State University spring break week will be highlighted brightly in our 2014 traffic calendar.


A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its nearly 43,000 students. With 11 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 6 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit