Traffic was bumper-to-bumper during peak driving hours Thursday across many of the city’s streets and highways ahead of Memorial Day weekend.

Car travel has been steadily increasing over the last few months, rebounding to pre-pandemic levels, according to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which estimated that 3.4 million vehicles will cross its bridges and tunnels over the upcoming holiday weekend, similar to 2019 traffic volumes.

Traffic expert Sam Schwartz, known to many as Gridlock Sam, said city dwellers typically planned out-of-town trips for Memorial Day weekend, also dubbed the unofficial kick-off of summer. He said the travel ends up jamming up the city’s major roads heading out to the region’s beaches or mountains surrounding the city. But the heavy traffic, Schwartz said, is also part of a bigger trend more than two years into the pandemic.

“Traffic volumes on expressways are well over 100% because we have more trucks than we've ever had before, and each truck counts as two to three cars,” Schwartz told Gothamist on Thursday evening, as traffic maps throughout the city were blinking red during the evening rush hour. “So right now, if people think traffic is worse than it's ever been, they’re right.”

Traffic in New York City on Thursday evening.

Traffic in New York City on Thursday evening.

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Traffic in New York City on Thursday evening.
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For those planning on hitting the road over the weekend, Schwartz advised leaving before 2 p.m. or after 8 p.m., and sticking to the state parkways instead of expressways whenever possible, since trucks are not allowed on them.

The Port Authority was also planning for several sobriety checkpoints throughout the city between 10 p.m. on Friday through 6 a.m. on Saturday. Drivers will be inspected at random, and the NYPD will also be handing out literature on the dangers of drinking and driving, the Port Authority said.

But that doesn’t mean traveling out of the city defaults to brake lights and car exhaust. Anyone hoping for a carless weekend getaway might also consider riding the Metro-North. The MTA announced on Thursday the reopening of its Breakneck Ridge station, a popular Hudson Valley hiking destination that was closed for safety improvements, just in time for the holiday weekend.

A previous version of this story incorrectly stated the number of travelers expected in the region this holiday weekend. About 3.4 million vehicles will cross New Jersey and New York bridges and tunnels over Memorial Day weekend. This article has been updated to clarify Sam Schwartz's quote that trucks count as two cars.