Telecommuting and stay-at-home restrictions for the COVID-19 pandemic are continuing to have a noticeable impact on traffic. In this blog post , we will be qualitatively and quantitatively studying the impact of COVID-19 on traffic flow. This analysis is based on Vehicle Miles Traveled(VMT),Trip Reduction Index and Bicycle Miles Traveled(BMT) which analyzes and studies the COVID-19's impact.

Urban Areas: Bigger Drop and Slower Rebound

Figure 1: VMT comparison between the Urban and Rural Counties [Source:]

What does this Chart tell me?
* VMT started declining in the second week of March for both the urban and rural counties. This is exactly when the states started implementing the stay at home orders.
*VMT bottomed out in early April for both the urban and rural counties. We can see greater reduction, around 20% for urban counties in comparison to rural counties. 
* As of the second week of July, we are seeing rural counties rebound faster in comparison to the urban counties
Trip Reduction Comparison across states

Figure 2: Trip reduction comparison across States[Source:]

What does this Chart tell me?
*The total number of trips across the states in United States are rebounding through early July.
* The Northeast and California are standing out as the areas with the largest remaining drop in the total number of trips. Ohio is fairing really well in terms of recovery compared to other states.
Peak COVID-19 Bicycling Metrics
Figure 3: Comparison of May 2019 to May 2020 Bicycling Activity in different metro areas across United States                                           [Source:]
What does this Chart tell me?
*There has been a massive increase in bike commuting in cities including Ogden (UT), Lakeland, (FL), Knoxville (TN), Columbia (SC) and Provo (UT) and Oxnard (CA). These are cities not ranked highly for commuter cycling, according to the 2020 U.S. Transportation Climate Impact Index.  Why did these areas have the sharpest increase? We know these areas are mountain biking, road biking, and/or triathlons. Could it be that folks either out of work or fewer entertainment options spent more time on outdoor activities.
* Bicycling actually dropped in larger and bike-friendly metro areas Portland (OR), New York (NY/NJ), Boston (MA), San Francisco (CA), and the District of Columbia. But it’s important to append some additional data to that finding before we conclude that biking is doomed in these places: Bicycling miles decreased less than car miles decreased. 
Are we really heading towards "Resurgence"?
The different performance metrics in this blog post have revealed that the traffic flow on the streets are slowly moving towards pre-pandemic conditions. Statistically, this indicates a slow process of reemergence and reopening for the different states. However, as COVID cases begin to spike once again, some states are contemplating to pause their reopening plans or beginning to restrict access to public places again. 

Figure 4: State wise comparison of the change in VMT between the week of June 20-26, 2020 & July 18-24, 2020 [Source: INRIX]

* Of the 33 states with VMT declines, 16 are currently "open" or are "re-opening", nine are "paused"eight are in the process of “reversing” openings.
* Of the 17 states with VMT gains, 12 are currently “open” or are “reopening,” three are “paused” and two are “reversing.”
The trends in traffic flow would be dependent on the policies, rules and guidelines introduced by different states as we move forward. In the upcoming blog posts, we will continue to track these trends. 

You may also like

Back to Top