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Telecommuting and stay-at-home restrictions for the COVID-19 pandemic are having a noticeable impact on traffic.

COVID-19's Impact on Regional Traffic

Transportation, COVID-19, Traffic

Telecommuting and stay-at-home restrictions for the COVID-19 pandemic are having a noticeable impact on traffic. The Maricopa Association of Governments is tracking the amount of time commuters are stuck in traffic on a daily basis. The measure of congestion delay* is calculated from speed data, which covers all major freeways and most of the arterial streets in Maricopa County on a daily basis, 24 hours a day. Please note that the graphs below are derived from INRIX data, which are proprietary and require attribution. A single notation within a report that contains INRIX data and a single logo on web pages that draw from INRIX data is acceptable. For example, a reporter could say "according to travel time data by the analytics company INRIX." The graphs below incorporate the appropriate attributions.

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*The delay (measured in vehicle hours) is calculated as the excessive travel time for all vehicles when average speed during a given hour is at least 20mph lower than the free-flow speed. The daily delay is calculated as the sum of hourly delay per day in the region.

What does this chart tell me?

  • Fewer cars means less congestion, which means high average speeds.
  • In comparing the months of April to August 2020 to the same five months in 2019, freeway speeds on average increased 11% in the a.m. and 12% in the p.m. during weekdays, due to reduced congestion.
  • For arterial streets, speeds on average increased 6% during morning and 7% during evening rush hours in 2020 when comparing with 2019.
  • Speeds on freeway and arterial streets did not change noticeably from the 3rd week of March to the end of August in 2020.

 

What does this graphic show?

  • Less traffic congestion means faster travel times; faster travel times mean less delay when compared to free flow traffic.
  • MAG monitors speed data for all major freeways and most arterial streets in Maricopa County 24/7. Congestion delay compares actual travel times, such as rush hour travel, to travel times when traffic is free flowing.
  • Since falling in mid-March, congestion delays have remained relatively stable at approximately 35,000 to 40,000 hours through the fourth week of August.

What does this graphic show?

  • Average Weekday Daily Traffic Volume for the week of March 2, 2020 is considered "normal" traffic conditions, defined as 100%.
  • The lowest number of vehicles on the regional roads is observed during the 2nd week of April as 63% to traffic volumes under normal conditions.
  • Since hitting its lowest volumes of 63% of normal in the second week of April, the number of vehicles on regional roads increased to 87% of normal traffic volumes during the third week of June. Volumes decreased to below 80% during July, and gradually increased to 90% in the third week of October.

NOTE: The data are primarily for the freeways and arterials in Maricopa County.

What does this chart show?

  • COVID-19 hasn't stopped freight deliveries. Unlike commute traffic, daily traffic for heavy trucks has stayed consistent.
  • The week of March 2, 2020, is considered "normal" traffic conditions, defined as 100%.
  • After heavy truck volumes showed a comparatively modest drop to the 91% of normal volumes during the 2nd week of April, heavy truck volumes have maintained at or above 100% since the second week of May.

NOTE: The data are primarily for the freeways and state highways in Maricopa County.

What do these satellite photos show?

 

Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) emissions are emitted into the air when fuel is burned in cars, trucks and buses, power plants, off-road equipment, manufacturing facilities, and wildfires. With the reduction in traffic due to the pandemic, we'd intuitively expect to see a matching reduction in the measurement of these emissions. However, satellite data comparing NO2 emissions over the MAG region in 2019 and 2020 indicates the story is much more complex. The amount of NO2 emissions in the air is impacted by a variety of factors, including weather and the transport of emissions from other countries and areas in the U.S. These charts show both increases and decreases in NO2 emissions during the months since the virus began.

  • Comparing the same period of March 16 to April 21, 2019 to March 16 to April 21 2020, findings show a reduction of 16.95% in these emissions.
  • Comparing the same period of April 22 to June 7, 2019 to April 22 to June 7, 2020, findings show an increase of 11.44% in these emissions.
  • Comparing the same period of June 8 to July 24, 2019 to June 8 to July 24, 2020, findings show a decrease of 10.27% in these emissions.

What do these charts show?

  • Active transportation trips (biking, walking and running) have increased significantly since March 2020.
  • Bike, run, and walk activity of "Locals" (blue) have increased significantly since the outbreak of COVID-19.
  • Bike, run, walk and hike activity of "Visitors" (light blue) have decreased since the outbreak of COVID-19.

What does this chart show?

  • Interstate freeways (I-10 and I-17) show less amount of traffic reduction compared to other freeways.
  • Sky Harbor ground traffic activities show a reduction of more than two-thirds since the first week of March 2020, and have slowly resumed to a range of 39% to 44% since May 15th.

What does this map show?

  • The map shows the percentage of trip changes between normal conditions in April 2019 and COVID-19 conditions in April 2020. The majority of census tracts in the region display decrease of travel during COVID-19. (The darker blue colors show the larger percentage of trip decrease, and the darker red colors show the larger percentage of trip increase.)
  • The trip distribution chart in the map shows the reduction of travel by time of day during COVID-19. The most significant trip reduction is observed during AM peak between 6:00 a.m. and 9:00 a.m. The blue line during the COVID-19 pandemic also shows that travel frequency is more evenly dispersed throughout the day.

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Published August 31, 2020

About MAG

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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