Driving on Easter: What to Expect according to 11 Cities


The turtle still lost.



How does Easter affect driving?

In order to answer that question, we examined hourly usage and hourly average speeds in 11 different cities from Easter Weekend 2014 (April 17 – April 20) to determine what were the best and worst times to drive. This should give you an idea of what to expect this weekend, regardless of where you live (and whether you celebrate Easter), along with an interesting glimpse into the customs and driving habits of Wazers all over the world.

Though Easter is celebrated internationally by Christians and non-Christians alike, we concentrated on cities in the most Catholic countries in the world since the holiday would be more likely to affect any given driver there. The cities we chose were:

  • Bogotá, Colombia
  • Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, and New York City, USA
  • Madrid, Spain
  • Manila, Philippines
  • Mexico City, Mexico
  • Paris, France
  • Rome Italy
  • São Paolo, Brazil

In many of these cities, Easter is a public or “bank” holiday where residents take vacations, visit friends or just take time off from work. With that in mind, we expected usage to drop and average speeds to increase (similar to the drop offs during bad weather), since more drivers on road generally results in more traffic. Much like we observed for Thanksgiving last year, we anticipated that the big driving days would be Thursday and Sunday (or Monday, depending on whether it was a holiday). 


A comparison of Waze usage per hour (local time), per city


Many of the cities exhibited usage declines beginning Thursday and continuing throughout the weekend. Sao Palo experienced a gigantic drop off, but based on our previous look at Carnival this is pretty common for Brazil during holidays.

Things got a bit stranger when we looked at the average speed per user:


Average hourly speed per Waze user, per city


It’s almost as if Madrid didn’t get the memo, right? There were a few other outliers we ran into, but for the most part average hourly speed increased substantially as the weekend went on, and in some cities it even kept increasing well into Sunday and Monday morning. We’ve included a Gallery at the end of this post that shows the data from each city charted individually, with average hourly speed compared to the hourly active usage. Check them out for a closer look, but we went ahead and listed out some of the things that stood out most from the data.

Have questions about a specific city or the data? Leave a comment below and we’ll do our best to answer. Enjoy your weekend, and try not to spend too much on chocolates and pastels.

Easter Eggs:

  • Madrid is the only city out of the 11 where average speed actually increased with usage. Somehow, more people on the road doesn’t seem to affect average speed like it did in other cities. In fact, Madrid’s speeds were lowest during low periods of usage. Madrid also has the lone honor of being the only city whose users were more active on Sunday than any other day, including Thursday, the typically busiest day for Easter Weekend in 2014. Looking at the data, looks like Madrid is the city that most loves Church and Brunch.
  • No one in Sao Paolo drives during Easter. We’ve observed in the past that Brazilians tend to disappear from the roads during major events, festivals and holidays like the World Cup, Carnival, and now Easter. Usage dropped immensely from Thursday to Friday, more than 50% in some cases, while average speed “skyrocketed”. It’s all relative- 45 kilometers an hour isn’t light speed, but it may feel like it when normal rush hour speeds can be less than 20 km/h. If you want to get somewhere fast in São Paolo, do it on Saturday of Easter Weekend.
  • Americans don’t really stop working, or driving. Easter is just another weekend for the residents of Chicago, L.A., New York City and Miami. In addition to US residents being infamous for not taking vacation unless they absolutely have to, this may also be due to the cultural melting pot that is the United States. Though these cities can be near 40% Catholic, that still leaves millions of people who may not celebrate Easter, let alone practice Christianity.

“I hope they carpooled….”

  • Rome is a tough city for Easter. Don’t get us wrong- Rome is probably amazing to visit during such an integral holiday to their culture and traditions. But please, whatever you do, don’t drive on Thursday. You’re not going anywhere with speeds that plummet below 30 km/h well into the evening hours. In fact, average speed doesn’t exceed 50 km/h until about the next morning. The massive influx of people driving into Rome on Thursday is only further worsened by the amount of people driving out of the city to avoid the madness, or just to go visit friends and family outside of the city. Either way, Saturday and Sunday morning (gotta beat that Mass Rush Hour) are probably the best times to drive, otherwise get out of the city on Wednesday.
  • Manila is probably worse. Manila might already be one of the worst cities in the world for traffic, and it’s no surprise that Easter is a big deal for a country that’s 80% Catholic (which equals around 80 million people). Manila’s Thursday was the worst out of all 11 cities, with speeds consistently around 20 km/h from 7AM until close to 11PM. In general, speeds rarely rose above 30 km/h during heavy usage periods, with the exception of the early hours of Easter Sunday. With nearly everything closed in Manila on “Black Saturday”, you would expect usage to fall off. On the contrary, Saturday is actually far more active than Friday with lower average speeds. If you’re going to or from Manila during Easter, leave on Friday.
  • Bogotá has big, slow afternoons. Unless it’s 2AM on Sunday, or maybe Friday morning, you’re not going anywhere fast in Bogotá. Other than those two periods, speeds never rose about 30 km/h. Sunday afternoon had the biggest spikes, but Thursday morning rush hour had the lowest speeds. Avoid these times if you want to avoid the traffic. Get to morning Mass earlier!
  • Paris is the only city that loves Friday more than Sunday. Which is weird, because usually they’re all about Wednesday. Speeds were slightly than on Thursday, but it appears that more people were out and about Friday night than any other day of le weekend. Thursday wasn’t a picnic either, but speeds throughout the holiday were significantly higher than anything in South America or Manila, so it can’t all be bad, right?



This slideshow requires JavaScript.