These days with the rising cost of fuel and the Seattle traffic snarls, people are concerned about commute times to and from work and schools when considering where to buy a home. If you are lucky enough to live close enough to work or school that you can walk, then this is not an issue. You might just concern yourself with the walk-ability and use WalkScore to help you get a feel for quality of life in your neighborhood. And if you can live with and use the public transportation system, bus routes and schedules will be your concern. But the reality for most of us is that we will need to get into a car to get to work or school on a regular basis.
We all know that traffic patterns can vary dramatically based on time of day and day of week. But the old rush hour vs. regular time analogy doesn't take into account changing lifestyles, like flex-time commuters or sports event congestion.
Google Maps has just come out with a cool new feature that allows you to see major highway congestion at any specific time or day of week. This can be extremely handy for people who are relocating from far away and don't know the area to get an idea of when and where things get congested.
That being said, whenever the commute time to work or schools is a concern I always advise my clients to try to find the time to actually drive a “trial run” during the times they will actually be driving, if at all possible. Get over to the subject home early in the morning (if that's when they normally drive) and see how the commute feels. Do on-ramps and off-ramps make backups inevitable? Do all the sidewalks get jammed making turns difficult? Do draw bridges create problems? You won't be able to predict all of these nuances and how it will feel to you until you do it yourself. Virtual reality can only go so far… at least for now.