Best times to beat Thanksgiving weekend traffic: Transit Sam, week of Nov. 26, 2o14

Wed., Nov. 26 – Wed., Dec. 3


Happy Thanksgiving!  Expect a cornucopia of traffic this holiday weekend: gas prices are down, air travel is up, and subway ridership is breaking records this year, meaning lots of folks will be traveling to and from the city. Enjoy your day(s) off and read up for a play-by-play description to expertly navigate the holiday gridlock ahead.

As I said last week, the day before Thanksgiving is the busiest travel day of the year with delays on all major roads and crossings Nov. 26. If you’re catching a flight, please allow for an extra 60 to 90 minutes. The best time to travel is Thanksgiving morning with lighter traffic and cheap flights before the afternoon surge for Thanksgiving dinner.

Thursday morning traffic will be a dream but by 1 p.m. the Holland Tunnel will be jammed again. The trick is the return trip in the evening. If you can convince your host to start dinner early so you hit the Holland by 7 p.m. you’ll be fine; that’s what Transit Sam does visiting his sister in New Jersey.

On Thanksgiving Day, most parking rules are suspended: alternate side parking, meters, and any sign without an “Anytime” designation. So, signs such as “No Parking Anytime” are still in effect while signs like “No Parking 9 am – 5 pm Monday – Friday” are suspended.

The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, which runs 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. (with closures lasting until 3 p.m.) will make for turkey torpor in Midtown. The parade ends at 34th St. and Seventh Ave., and the delays will ripple down to Varick St.

Beware! Friday is a Summons Alert Day!  More summonses are issued on Black Friday than any other day of the year. While it seems like parking rules should be suspended for one long holiday weekend, it isn’t so: all rules are still in effect on Friday. Feed that meter!

If you’re driving back to town on Sunday, brace yourself for some of the worst traffic jams. Sunday is one of the busiest airport, train and bus days of the year with back-ups on all roads leading back to Lower Manhattan by 5 p.m. 

On the Manhattan Bridge there will be a special Thanksgiving week schedule for the lower roadway to help ease the crush of holiday travelers. All day Thursday, the lower roadway will be exclusively Brooklyn-bound traffic.  5 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday and 5 a.m. Saturday through midnight Sunday the lower roadway will be exclusively Manhattan-bound traffic.

After the Thanksgiving weekend brouhaha dies down, it’ll be time for Monday night football! The Jets play the Dolphins 8:30 p.m. at MetLife Stadium. Fan traffic to and from the game will clog up the Lincoln Tunnel, sending drivers down to the Holland. Expect slowdowns before and after the game.

Heads up, readers: Gridlock Sam’s 2015 Parking Calendar will be coming out soon! Check out next week’s column or follow me on Twitter @gridlocksam for more details. For traffic, transit and parking questions email transitsam@downtownexpress.com.