Rush hour

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Afternoon rush hour traffic on Interstate 95 in Miami

A rush hour (American English, British English) or peak hour (Australian English) is a part of the day during which traffic congestion on roads and crowding on public transport is at its highest. Normally, this happens twice every weekday: once in the morning and once in the afternoon or evening, the times during which most people commute. The term is often used for a period of peak congestion that may last for more than one hour.

The term is very broad, but often refers specifically to private automobile transportation traffic, even when there is a large volume of cars on a road but not many people, or if the volume is normal but there is some disruption of speed.


Heavy rush hour congestion on US 25 along Gratiot Avenue in Detroit in the 1940s
Traffic in Atlanta during rush hour
Traffic heading into Philadelphia on Interstate 95 during the morning rush hour

The name is sometimes a misnomer, as the peak period often lasts more than one hour and the "rush" refers to the volume of traffic, not the speed of its flow. Peak traffic periods may vary from country to country, city to city, from region to region, and seasonally.

Transport demand management, such as road pricing or a congestion charge, is designed to induce people to alter their travel timing to minimize congestion. Similarly, public transport fares may be higher during peak periods; this is often presented as an off peak discount for single fares. Season tickets or multi-ride tickets, sold at a discount, are commonly used in rush hours by commuters, and may or may not reflect rush hour fare differentials.

Staggered hours have been promoted as a means of spreading demand across a longer time span—for example, in Rush Hour (1941 film) and by the International Labour Office.[1]

Traffic management by country

Australia and New Zealand

In the morning, and evening, Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne, and Auckland and Christchurch are usually the most congested cities in Australia and New Zealand respectively. In Melbourne the Monash Freeway, which connects Melbourne's suburban sprawl to the city, is usually heavily congested each morning and evening. In Perth, Mitchell Freeway, Kwinana Freeway and various arterial roads are usually congested between peak hours, making movement between suburbs and the city quite slow.

Efforts to minimise traffic congestion during peak hour vary on a state by state and city by city basis.

In Melbourne, congestion is managed by means including:

  • Inbound transit lanes on busy freeways which are limited to motorcycles and other vehicles with more than one occupant during busy periods.
  • Dedicated bus lanes on major inner city roads such as Hoddle Street.
  • Introduction of dedicated bicycle lanes (often by removing vehicle lanes) in the inner city area to encourage cyclists and deter dual-track vehicles.
  • Prohibition of parking along busy roads during peak traffic periods to create an extra lane for traffic.

In Brisbane, congestion is managed by means including:

  • Busways in Brisbane grade separate a significant amount of bus traffic, particularly on the South and Eastern suburbs using the South East Busway, the Eastern Busway (connects with the South East Busway at Buranda), with some relief on the northern suburbs provided by the Northern Busway. This reduces the traffic load shared by buses and other vehicles, therefore allowing for more capacity for other vehicles on major trunk roads in and out of Brisbane.
  • Introduction of the South East Bikeway, which runs alongside the South East Busway to allow for cycle commuting from the Southern suburbs. Some paths along the Brisbane River are also widened to include a specific bikeway section (particularly between Toowong and North Quay).
  • Prohibition of parking along busy roads during peak traffic periods to create an extra lane for traffic.

In Sydney, congestion is managed by many means including:

  • Transit and/or HOV Lanes are installed on many major arterial roads.

Traffic congestion is managed through the Traffic Management Centre via a network of Closed Circuit TV's, with operators able to change the timing of traffic signals to reduce wait times

  • Most major motorways have the ability for contraflow lane to allow continuing flow of traffic in case of a major accident
  • Older motor ways have been upgraded from two lanes in each direction, to three lanes in each direction
  • Motor way toll booths have been replaced with electronic toll systems (M2 Hills Motorway was the last to do so on 21 January 2012); time-of-day tolling is in use on the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Sydney Harbour Tunnel to provide cash incentives for commuters to remain out of the city in peak times.


In São Paulo, Brazil, each vehicle is assigned a certain day of the week in which it cannot travel the roads during rush hour (7–10 am and 5–8 pm). The day of the week for each vehicle is derived from the last digit in the licence plate number and the rule is enforced by traffic police (1 and 2 for Mondays, 3 and 4 for Tuesdays, 5 and 6 for Wednesdays, 7 and 8 for Thursdays and 9 and 10 for Fridays). This policy is aimed at reducing the number of vehicles on the roads and encouraging the use of buses, subway and the urban train systems.


Vancouver's portion of the Trans-Canada Highway is served with high-occupancy vehicle lanes in addition to standard lanes for all automobiles. These lanes are meant to improve traffic flow by encouraging carpooling and transit use. Richmond, part of the Vancouver metro region, is also constructing a new interchange at Steveson Highway and British Columbia Highway 99 which will be the first of its kind in British Columbia in an effort to improve traffic flow.

Kelowna's Harvey Avenue is served also by HOV lanes.


In the pico y placa (peak and license plate) program in Bogotá, drivers of non-commercial automobiles are prevented from driving them during rush hours on certain days of the week. The vehicles barred each day are determined by the last digit of their license plate. The measure is mandatory and those who break it are penalized. The digits banned each day are rotated every year.[2]


In road transport, the expressways of Japan operate on a beneficiaries-pay principle which imposes expensive toll fees, having the effect of reducing road traffic. Electronic toll collection (ETC) is widespread and discounts during low-traffic periods have been introduced to distribute traffic over a longer period. Road pricing is being considered but has not been introduced, partly because the expressway fee is already very high.


Inside Metro Manila, the Unified Vehicular Volume Reduction Program, popularly known as the "number coding scheme", is implemented by the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority. The program stipulates that vehicles are prohibited from plying all roads within the metropolis, depending on the last digit of their license plates and on the day of the week.

The vehicles are banned from 7 am to 7 pm. Unlike the public vehicles, the private vehicles have a five-hour window exception which runs from 10 am to 3 pm. However, the cities of Makati and San Juan do not implement the five-hour window.

This table shows the license plates with numbers ending with its corresponding days:

Ending in Every
1 and 2 Monday
3 and 4 Tuesday
5 and 6 Wednesday
7 and 8 Thursday
9 and 0 Friday

Exempted from the program are motorcycles, school buses, shuttle buses, ambulances, fire engines, police cars, military vehicles, those carrying a person needing immediate medical attention, and vehicles with diplomatic license plates.

On the other hand, in other places, there are certain policies the municipal or city government are proposing or has implemented for the whole municipality or city.


Electronic Road Pricing is intended to discourage driving between 7:30 am and 8 pm. In addition, employees were given travel incentives through Travel Smart programme. Peak hours are defined as follows: 7:30–9:30 am and 5–8 pm, with different times for terminal stations.

United Kingdom

In London, congestion charges are intended to discourage driving between 7 am and 6 pm.

United States

Efforts to manage transportation demand during rush hour periods vary by state and by metropolitan area. In some states, freeways have designated lanes that become HOV (High-Occupancy Vehicle, aka car-pooling) only during rush hours, while open to all vehicles at other times. In others, such as the Massachusetts portion of I-93, travel is permitted in the breakdown lane during this time. Several states use ramp meters to regulate traffic entering freeways during rush hour. Transportation officials in Colorado and Minnesota have added value pricing to some urban freeways around Denver, the Twin Cities, and Seattle, charging motorists a higher toll during peak periods.

Heavy traffic within the larger Greater Boston region was addressed with the Big Dig project, which temporarily improved expressway traffic.

Third rush hour

The term "third rush hour" has been used to refer to a period of the midday in which roads in urban and suburban areas become congested due to numerous people taking lunch breaks using their vehicles.[3][4] These motorists often frequent restaurants and fast food locations, where vehicles crowding[a] the entrances cause traffic congestion.[7]

See also


  1. ^ Crowding levels defined by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism:[5][6]
    100% — Commuters have enough personal space and are able to take a seat or stand while holding onto the straps or hand rails.
    150% — Commuters have enough personal space to read a newspaper.
    180% — Commuters must fold newspapers to read.
    200% — Commuters are pressed against each other in each compartment but can still read small magazines.
    250% — Commuters are pressed against each other, unable to move.


  1. ^ Staggered Hours Schemes International Labour Office, Geneva
  2. ^ - Trámites
  3. ^ Fehr, Stephen. "Third Rush Hour Squeezes Into Midday; Road Congestion at Lunchtime Rivals Morning, Evening Commutes". The Washington Post. August 12, 1990
  4. ^ United States Congress. Committee on the District of Columbia. (1977). Hearings, reports and prints of the House Committee on the District of Columbia
  5. ^ "混雑率の推移" [Trends in average congestion rate, transportation capacity, and number of people transported in the most congested sections of the three major metropolitan areas]. (in Japanese). July 6, 2017. {{cite web}}: Cite uses deprecated parameter |authors= (help)
  6. ^ Kikuchi, Daisuke (6 July 2017). "Tokyo plans new effort to ease commuter hell on rush-hour trains". The Japan Times. Archived from the original on 6 July 2017.
  7. ^ Langdon, Philip. (1994). A better place to live: reshaping the American suburb. University of Massachusetts. p. 177. ISBN 978-0-87023-914-4