How Bad Is Lancaster Traffic?

Lancaster, PA sees its share of rush hour traffic, but tourists often contribute more than commuters to traffic congestion.
Written by Sarah Gray
Reviewed by Jessica Barrett
Located in the heart of
Dutch country, Lancaster is better known for its red-brick Central Market building than for rush hour traffic. However, like any small city, Lancaster does have its occasional issues with traffic.
Lancaster, PA, the Red Rose City, is best known as the hub of Pennsylvania’s Amish Country. Its population of only about 60,000 residents and economic focus on historic preservation and tourism means you’re more likely to get caught up in tourist traffic than a local rush hour. But no matter what’s causing the congestion, sitting in a traffic jam is never the way you want to spend your time.
So whether you’re headed to Lancaster to visit the oldest continuously operated farmers market in the U.S. or to attend its unique annual Puerto Rican Festival, we have everything you need to avoid letting traffic make you late in Lancaster.
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How bad is Lancaster traffic?

Honestly? It’s not that bad—especially if you can avoid the section of US-30/Lincoln Highway where it intersects with State Road 283 just west of Fruitville Pike/N Prince Street. This short stretch of highway and the majority of Prince Street are the two most congested areas of town, thanks to the high number of shops, stores, and restaurants drawing drivers to the area.
In 2020, Lancaster, like most other cities, saw a significant drop in traffic congestion during the pandemic shutdowns. But things are slowly getting back to normal, and that includes the traffic.
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Why is Lancaster traffic so bad?

Lancaster sees a unique combination of local and tourist traffic that can often create congestion issues. Here are a few reasons traffic in Lancaster can get a bit hairy at times.

Tourist traffic 

Lancaster County, with the city of Lancaster at its center, sees an average of nearly nine million tourists each year. Most of these tourists either take road trips to the city or fly into
and rent a car. That means a whole lot of drivers on roads that are unfamiliar to them.

Major chokepoints

We’ve already mentioned Fruitville Pike/N Prince Street and Lincoln Highway, but Gallery Row along Prince Street south of Lemon and north of King gets really congested not only during rush hour but also on the weekends. You can expect cars lining the streets as tourists ditch their vehicles to walk through the arts district, making for some serious pedestrian delays.

Driving habits

Anyone who’s ever lived in or visited a tourist town knows things get a little weird when locals and tourists collide on the streets. Whether we’re talking about literal collisions or just figurative encounters between people with very different driving habits, it’s easy for traffic to get backed up when people are at odds.
MORE: The best type of car insurance to get if you commute long distances

How to navigate Lancaster traffic like a pro

Getting to know a city’s traffic patterns is a great way to avoid traffic snarls, but sometimes, your best bet is just to walk. Lancaster is a supremely walkable city, and with all the small shops, cafes, and galleries, tourists would actually do well to hoof it and leave the roads to the locals.
But sometimes, you really do need to drive, so here are a few tips to help you navigate Lancaster traffic like a pro:
  • Steer clear of rush hour if possible. Lancaster has rush hours like any other town, so try to avoid the major thoroughfares, like Prince Street, Lincoln Highway, and Columbia Ave, from 7:00 to 9:00 a.m. and 4:00 to 6:00 p.m.
  • Walk whenever you can. Lancaster is comparatively small, so your best bet will often be to hop out of your car altogether—especially when you find yourself in super-congested areas like Gallery Row.
  • Use a traffic app.
    Google maps
    , and
    all offer apps that allow you to see real-time traffic information with suggestions to avoid traffic snarls. 
  • Stay calm, stay focused, and stay back. When you do find yourself stuck in traffic, take a breath and take in your surroundings. Not only is Lancaster beautiful to look at, but this will keep you focused on the moment, so you don’t find yourself partaking in
    distracted driving
    . Be sure to allow a few feet of space between you and the car in front of you, too. Getting involved in a chain-reaction rear-end collision isn’t going to make traffic any better.

Prepare for Lancaster traffic by updating your car insurance

Whenever you get ready to go driving in a new location, it’s always a good idea to be sure you update your
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Not really, but it can get a bit congested around rush hour and in the town square on weekends.
Lancaster is always a great town for walking, but if you have to drive, try to do it in the early mornings, mid-afternoons, and evenings.
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