Congestion in U.S. cities fell 50% amid pandemic, saving drivers almost $1,000

midian182

Posts: 6,796   +61
Staff member
In brief: The global pandemic has affected almost every aspect of our lives. One of the few positives to come from the situation is that drivers in major U.S. cities spent about half the usual amount of time in traffic last year, saving almost $1,000.

According to a new report from transportation analytics firm INRIX, congestion fell almost 50% across major U.S. cities last year due to stay-at-home orders, the huge jump in remote working, and businesses closing temporarily. Residents spent around 75 fewer hours in traffic across the entire year compared to 2019.

The average American driver lost only 26 hours of time to congestion on U.S. roadways in 2020, down from 99 hours in 2019. With less time spent in vehicles, they saved $980.

"In the transportation world, they used to say that obviously pricing is one way to reduce congestion and the other was a recession because we did see some travel times get reduced during the Great Recession," said Bob Pishue, a transportation analyst at INRIX. "And apparently now we know that pandemics [reduce congestion] as well."

In 2020, New York knocked Boston off the number one spot as the most congested urban area in the U.S. Despite the number of hours lost to traffic dropping 28% YoY, Big Apple drivers still spent 100 hours in traffic last year. It was followed by Philadelphia (94 hours), Chicago (86 hours), then Boston (48 hours).

Business closures and limits on gathering sizes also meant fewer trips to downtown areas were taken. Portland, Oregon, saw the largest drop-off in downtown trips, falling 66%, followed by San Francisco (-64%), Washington D.C. (-60%), Detroit (-59%) and Boston (-56%). On average, downtown traffic volume fell 44% during the pandemic.

“Although travel to downtowns has been the most affected by the spread of the virus and subsequent government restrictions, the reduction in congestion has resulted in quicker commutes for essential workers, more reliable deliveries and streamlined freight movement, all of which are vital to the economy,” said Pishue. “We expect downtown trips will continue to lag suburban and rural travel through 2021.”

New York wasn’t the most congested city globally in 2020; that dubious honor went to Bogota in Columbia, where drivers lost 133 hours to traffic despite a 31% yearly reduction.

Image credit: Ryan DeBerardinis

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QuantumPhysics

Posts: 4,910   +5,453
I live in NYC and work in Lower Manhattan's financial District (Wall Street).

Normally, commuting between Long Island and Manhattan is an hour to 2 hour long slog in traffic wrought with car accidents and construction delays - which are made even worse by the school slowdowns where traffic is always worse when Public Schools are in session.

During the pandemic, the few times I decided to drive into Manhattan, I found myself able to exceed 80mph regularly - not a cop in sight - no traffic - all the way from LI to Lower Manhattan in record time.

Not to mention I felt so much more relaxed not having to deal with others on the road, their accidents and the ridiculous ghost traffic.

Sometimes exceeding 110 MPH.

Covid 19 in NYC was a paid vacation for some - and absolutely devastating to others.

The K-shaped recovery is real.
 

Avro Arrow

Posts: 1,256   +1,386
TechSpot Elite
Everything is small potatoes compared to Highway 401 going through Toronto. Imagine 18 lanes (9 eastbound and 9 westbound) going nowhere because the traffic volume is too great even for a highway that massive.

Since it's the busiest highway on Earth, have you got any information about the 401?
 
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BadThad

Posts: 511   +495
"Portland, Oregon, saw the largest drop-off in downtown trips"

Well, duh! This had LITTLE to do with the scamdemic! People avoided downtown Portland (and other liberal cities) because of a bunch of leftist, anarchists destroying the city daily. Unless you enjoy sitting by the fire, this was not the place to go!
 

bandit8623

Posts: 267   +153
"Portland, Oregon, saw the largest drop-off in downtown trips"

Well, duh! This had LITTLE to do with the scamdemic! People avoided downtown Portland (and other liberal cities) because of a bunch of leftist, anarchists destroying the city daily. Unless you enjoy sitting by the fire, this was not the place to go!
Same for Minneapolis. No one wants to hang out in riotville.
 

scavengerspc

Posts: 1,177   +1,117
TechSpot Elite
I live in Little Rock and surprisingly we did a very anti-red state thing and wised up quickly. Arkansas was hit hard but here we had the lowest numbers per capita in the state and much of the south. Mayor Frank Scott started closing the schools and approved the rainy day fund for PPE in the medical fields in mid-March and then curfews. As early as April our rush hour traffic was almost like Christmas morning. Masking and distancing came soon after. It sucked. Badly. And people here were not happy. But we got to today in a state that has 5400 COVID deaths, with only 580 covid deaths in the entire County of Pulaski which is Little Rock, and by far the biggest town\city in Arkansas. Mayor Scotts approval rating now is at 70%.

Live and learn.

EDITED to give up-to-date stats.
 
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