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COVID-19 significantly altered traffic patterns over the past two years, but there is some good news for Valley drivers.

Busier Roads, But Less Congestion
Pandemic continues to impact Valley traffic, but with some interesting changes

COVID-19 significantly altered traffic patterns over the past two years, but there is some good news for Valley drivers. While there are just as many or even more vehicles on the roads than before the pandemic, you are now less likely to get stuck in traffic during your weekday commute.

Telecommuting and other lifestyle changes due to the pandemic continue to have a noticeable impact on traffic. The Maricopa Association of Governments (MAG) tracks the amount of time commuters are delayed 24 hours a day, every day.

Although data show traffic volume actually is back to pre-COVID levels, traffic delays are down, with a significant shift in the times when there is traffic congestion. Delays during the weekday morning rush hour have significantly decreased since April 2020, at levels around 30 to 40 percent of pre-COVID. The congestion during afternoon rush hour on weekdays has returned to only about 60 percent.

The greatest reason for the decrease in congestion seems to be people are driving at different times. Dr. Vladimir Livshits, director of MAG’s Transportation Technologies and Services Division, says other factors also are at play.

“Regional travel patterns seemed to have changed due to increased telework and different socioeconomic behaviors, including more online shopping and entertainment,” says Dr. Livshits. “Major infrastructure improvements and road-widening projects also have reduced travel delays.”

The pandemic did not stop freight deliveries. Unlike commuter traffic, daily traffic for heavy trucks has stayed consistent, maintaining levels of 100 percent or above since the spring of 2020.

As students return to school for in-person learning, new traffic patterns may emerge. MAG will continue to monitor daily data and conduct travel surveys to better understand how school attendance and other changing factors have an impact.

Published August 30, 2021

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The Maricopa Association of Governments (MAG) is a Council of Governments (COG) that serves as the regional planning agency for the metropolitan Phoenix area.

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