It’s the most talked about intersection in the Lake Travis area.
There are three times of the day this intersection is best to avoid — morning, afternoon, and evening. Or in other words, you could say it’s best to avoid this intersection altogether. If you’re living along the 620 corridor and you have to get north or west, you don’t have a choice.
For anyone that has the pleasure of this intersection being a part of their daily slog, you start to take notice of the other drivers. Starting at about 7:00 am during weekdays is when traffic starts to build. Cars and trucks coming out of Bee Cave and Lakeway join together as they make their way past Steiner Ranch and begin to jockey for position.
Many types of drivers emerge as we all work our way up to the most loved intersection in the Lake Travis area — 620 and 2222.
1) The Expert Left-Laner (going right)
The left lane is almost always moving faster until you reach BBQ Outfitters. And that’s when the Expert Left-Laner will start to setup for the move, getting as far as possible before switching lanes and shaving valuable minutes as they maneuver into the right turn lane.
As an Expert Left-Laner, you’re relying on a slow truck or someone that leaves just enough space to sneak in before it’s too late. This move makes the driver that has been creeping along in the right lane (Right-Lane Blocker) get really mad as they signal their frustration by throwing their hands up in the air.
2) The Wannabe Expert Left-Laner (going right)
A Wannabe Expert Left-Laner is easy to spot. They wait too long to make the move and end up coming to a complete stop in the left lane with their right turn signal on. At some point, a Texas friendly-driver will let the wannabe in. If this happens to you, just be sure and give them a Texas friendly thank-you wave.
3) The Right-Lane Blocker
This driver gets in the right lane early and will hold their ground while staying as close as possible to the car in front of them. Your job as a Right-Lane Blocker is to make sure the left-laner doesn’t sneak in. This effort is usually thwarted by the inevitable drivers who could care less about letting a left-laner in or the slow-to-start cement truck.
If you find that being a Right-Lane Blocker is infuriating, you might want to become a left-laner. Just remember, we need a good balance of left-laners and right-laners to make this all work.
4) The Shoulderer
Sightings of this driver decreased after improvements came that added a double right turn lane onto 2222 and extension back to Wells Fargo — and our friendly police officers showing up every now and then to hand out tickets for driving on the shoulder. But some of you may remember that the shoulder was just another lane back in the day.
So every now and then, you get a rare sighting of The Shoulderer — a person unaware (or just doesn’t care) zooming along on the shoulder like it’s nobody’s business. Usually several others join in. Things get a little dicey when The Shoulderer approaches the right turn lanes on the other side of Wells Fargo and try to merge with the cars that did it the legal way.
5) The Comanche
You may prefer to bypass the 620 and 2222 intersection altogether and take Comanche Trail towards the Oasis. The move can pay off, especially if you’re taking the back way to head all the way up to 620 and Anderson Mill Road. There is a right and a wrong time to Go Comanche and I can’t give away any secrets that will upset the Comanche Tribe. You’ll have to try and master this one on your own.
More Drivers For The Ride Home
All of those vehicles that turned right onto 2222 in the morning have to come back home and that starts at about 4:00 pm. Traffic begins to build as you crest Tumbleweed Hill — and sometimes well before that — as cars once again jockey for position. Here you have to make a choice to hang tight in the left lane. Or go as far as you can in the right lane before it’s too late and you’re stuck in the right turn lane and forced to go the wrong way (unless you happen to be going that way).
6) The Sneaky Right-Laner (going left)
There’s a real art to anticipating how long you can make it in the right lane before making your move to turn left back onto 620. You know you have the move perfected when you can speed along in the right lane (pretending that you’ll be turning right) as most cars start to move over to the left lane early and slow as they approach the light.
Your timing is perfect when the left turn light goes green and traffic begins to move and loosen up. And there’s your opening! You find your way to squeeze in just before getting stuck in the right turn lane and don’t have to wait an extra second as you’re turning left onto 620 and heading home.
It’s a risky move with big rewards. Pull it off and you’re home for dinner early! Fail and you’re stuck turning right onto 620 and heading in the wrong direction — you might as well stop at Rudy’s to grab some dinner because you won’t be able to turn around anytime soon.
7) The Walgreener
You’re patiently waiting in the far left turn lane on 2222 to hop onto 620 going towards Lakeway. The light finally turns green and as traffic begins to roll, the car in front of you stops so they can make the left turn into Walgreens. It’s one of the more pleasing moves during the busy commute home.
The Walgreener scores the most points when the steady flow of traffic going west on 2222 prevents them from making the illegal turn and cars behind them have to sit and wait an entire light cycle.
You can become a Master Walgreener, but only when you can time your turn without holding up any of the cars behind you.
8) The H-E-Ber’s
There are two types of H-E-Ber’s.
The more popular H-E-Ber is trying to enter 2222 during rush hour from the exit on the gas station side. It’s nearly impossible to get out, so they pull out into the small space between two stopped vehicles waiting to turn but can’t quite fit in without blocking the vehicles that were moving along in right lane. Most Texas friendly-drivers seem to tolerate The H-E-Ber — as long as they are driving a huge SUV.
A rare sighting and one that will test your Texas friendly-driving manners is the westward bound Four-Deucer turning left into H-E-B at the right-turn only entrance on the gas station side. Your best chance of spotting this driver is during peak traffic hours.
9) The Lefty H-E-Ber and B-of-Aer
The Lefty H-E-Ber and B-of-Aer (Bank of America customer) get to share the number 9 spot. They both exit onto 2222 with an illegal left hand turn that will usually block all three lanes of traffic as they wait for an opening to go west on 2222. These drivers are elusive and you should consider yourself lucky to see one. They will leave you in a state of awe sitting at a green light with nowhere to go. Try to smile and give them a Texas friendly-driver wave.
I know there are more out there, so feel free to add yours by joining the conversation over on our Facebook page.
This isn’t just happening at 620 and 2222, you can observe this all over Austin, especially on Bee Caves Rd. The people who stop in the left lane and block all the people trying to get home so they can stop off at starbucks is extremely frustrating. Have some sense people, you have tried it before, it doesn’t work.. plan your route so you’re making more right turns than left!
Todd Hower says
Hey Scottevil, those are The Starbuckers 🙂
Love it… To further the description of the “sneaky right laner”, they can bail on the plan if they get stuck and duck right I n to HEB. Perhaps pick up a quick 6pack at Twin liquor, then continue on to the end of the 4 points center then make a left on 4 points then left again on 620. Probably cutting time overall and avoiding the annoyance of the slow walgreener who backs up the left lane back on 2222.
I have been all of these drivers at one time or another (except the walgreener and the baffling lefty HEBer. I’m not an animal!)
Todd Hower says
That’s right Mark! And if you pull off the move a little earlier by turning left just past 3M before the Rudy’s sign, you end up in the same place, but without a 6 pack 🙂
I’m glad to hear that you’re not a Walgreener.
This is hysterical ! And so true.
Todd Hower says
Very funny – it depends on how my morning is going…I switch among them… 🙂
Todd Hower says
You have to stay flexible out there Iara!
Comanche commuter says
You left off one of the best ones! Heading west on 2222, the strait shooter! The guy that takes the right hand turn lane all the way through the light (you know who you are! ). As I go strait through the light (legally), I usually block this guy with a nice little wave while he fist pumps and tries to ruin me off the road…
Todd Hower says
You have to watch out for those Straight Shooters — they will run you off the road!
Comanche commuter — I’m guessing you’re a #5?
So, left Austin 7 years ago and moved to the Houston Clear Lake Area. People, I’m moving back-to Four Points. Nothing has trained me better than Houston Rush hours–so I’m taking ALL the side streets.
Todd Hower says
We will call this type of maneuvering — The Houstoner 🙂
Hudson bender says
Todd, you forgot No. 10 the “wired” driver aka FB driver. They are on their “smart” phones the entire time. They know they aren’t fully paying attention so they leave several car lengths of room in front of them and weave. They never start when the light changes and traffic starts to flow. They are prime for a pick off by a Left Laner or H-E-Bers. I believe these drivers are the worst of all. Because they don’t move when the light turns, less people get through. The worst is when there are “wired” drivers on each of the left turn lanes at 620 and 2222 at the same time. They deserve a gesture and a honk. Someone needs to do a study about the increased traffic caused by “smart” phones. Goodness knows the world is sitting on pins and needles waiting for their status update or text!
Todd Hower says
Hudson bender, hopefully the new hands-free law that went into effect January 1, 2015 will get these FB drivers moving along. But remember, everybody has a part to play out there and like you point out — the FB drivers are keeping the Left-Laners and H-E-Bers happy 🙂
Joe T. says
Your list is pretty accurate but is pretty Steiner-centric in that it completely ignores the whole other traffic ecosystem that exists for those living on the north side of the 620 and 2222 intersection. Here are most that I’ve observed in my daily commute through this intersection, in no particular order of importance/annoyance.
1) The Lefty HEB-er (620 variant)
This person gets into the far-left turn lane after the Four Points turn-off (the legal turn-off to get to the HEB parking lot for those traveling south on 620), then at the first break in oncoming traffic will pull an illegal u-turn into the north-only entrance to HEB. At their best they will pull this during morning rush hour, preventing the entire left lane from advancing to the light.
2) The Four-Pointer
These are the people that get into the far-left turn lane at the Four Points turn-off to take Four Points to River Bend in order to bypass the 620-2222 intersection entirely. Whether this detour actually saves one any time in their commute is debatable and highly dependent on what time of day it’s taken and how traffic is looking at the time. Similar to The Commanche but far more variable in its success, particularly during the morning commute.
3) The Left Shifter
This driver is wanting to make that left onto 2222 from 620 in the left lane but doesn’t want to wait in that long queue of people waiting for the River Bend left to turn green (no one hardly ever does). They’ll patiently drive in the left-most straight lane coming up to the River Bend light until the River Benders in front of them have all gotten into the far left lane, then they’ll move into the outer left turn lane for 620 and 2222 (it actually starts before the River Bend turn). Once past River Bend, though, they’ll immediately shift to the inside left turn lane. This actually accounts for 90-95% of the people in the inside turn lane at 620 and 2222 during morning rush hour traffic. Left Shifters and Four Pointers have been known to sneer at one another when going through the light at their point of re-integration on 2222 and River Bend.
4) The flip Four-Pointer
This is a person who acts like a Left Shifter, but as soon as there is a break in oncoming traffic they will immediately make an illegal u-turn to bypass the River Bend queue and make a right onto River Bend, often times stopping Left Shifters from advancing. These tend to be looked at negatively by both true Four-Pointers and Left Shifters.
5) The River Bender
This is the flipside of the Four-Pointer, but its rate of success is generally much higher. In the evening rush hour coming up 2222, these are the ones you see turning right onto River Bend (sometimes becoming a Shoulderer to take that exit) to take Four Points and bypass the 620-2222 intersection. Generally this does save time early in the rush hour but as traffic starts to thin on 2222 its gains gradually diminish.
6) The Bullick Bluffer
This is a driver who goes to the far right lane making like they are going to turn down Bullick Hollow. They will make that turn, but at the first break in oncoming traffic will make a u-turn and join the traffic from Bullick Hollow going straight onto 2222. As traffic has increased from Bullick Hollow over the years this has become more of a rarity but can still be seen from time to time, especially on mornings where both left turn lanes are backed up past the River Bend turn. Look for these to rise again when the CVS opens there.
7) The Straight Left-Laner
Other than those legitimately going straight down 620 past the 2222 light, these are the only other honest drivers along this corridor in the morning. These are the people who will get in the outside left turn lane after the River Benders have all moved over but still then stay in that lane all the way through to the outside left turn onto 2222. While most others tend to sneer at these honest folk, on average by the time you get to the last light before the hill on 2222 they’ll be further ahead of you in traffic more often than not thanks to that right lane on 2222 moving a lot more than the left usually does (unless you were a Left Shifter that then moved to the right lane on 2222 before reaching the first light on it).
8) The Sneaky Straight Shooter (turning left)
That person that stays in the left straight lane going south on 620 until they are past the River Bend exit. Then as soon as there is an opening big enough (and sometimes even if there isn’t) they will force their way into that outside left turn lane before getting to the intersection, thereby trying to become a Straight Left-Laner but they’re fooling no one. There’s also an extreme variant of this that goes all the way over to try becoming a Left Shifter, but these are thankfully rare.
9) The Yellow-Blind Lefter
This is one that practically everyone in the morning is familiar with no matter which direction you are going through the 620-2222 intersection, because in all likelihood you have encountered them despite they’re only coming from one direction. Originating from either left turn lane, these are the ones that make that left from 620 onto 2222 because the signal is still yellow no matter that the traffic is backed all the way to the intersection. This causes them to sit in the middle of the intersection as they wait for the traffic on 2222 to inch just far enough up for them to crawl out of the way, but not before effectively blocking traffic from every direction. Their antics are normally accompanied by head shaking and Texas-friendly waves from all 4 directions.
Todd Hower says
Joe T., this is awesome! You need to come on as our Northsider traffic contributor.
As a proud shoulderer, I have to let you know that according to Texas Transportation Code 545.058, it is completely legal to pass on the right shoulder another vehicle that is slowing or stopped on the main traveled portion of the highway, disabled, or preparing to make a left turn. I know you’re not saying we are scofflaws and all of the other drivers you describe are mostly following the written rules of the road, nevertheless I thought you and your readers should know we shoulderers are legally entitled to drive on the shoulder (in certain situations). Typically, I start my shoulder driving if there are no other driveways, entrances, exits between me and the intersection I’m turning at.
I have an email from law enforcement that specifically says that in the case of a single lane going each direction where a car is stopped to make a left turn (in the only lane of traffic), you may take the road shoulder to make a right turn into a driveway. As far as I know, this rule does not include any two-lane roads, nor does it include any road that has a dedicated left-turn lane in addition to a traffic lane for those going straight. Also, my understanding is that it is not legal to pass a line of traffic stopped at a traffic light or stop sign to turn right onto another street.
Todd Hower says
The entrances for Wells Fargo and the Kolache Factory are the problem for The Shoulders on the approach to 2222.
Back in the day when I was a Shoulderer, a police officer was sitting in the driveway before the Wells Fargo (not sure what the place was at that time) and had us all lined up for tickets. Fortunately, I just happened to be going to Wells Fargo that day and had a pre-written deposit slip to show him. So he let me go without a ticket and explained that you can use the shoulder after the entrances/driveways.
Ethan Tweedie says
I am relatively new to the area and this is too funny!!!! I am learning the ways!
Thanks for the humor.