cars in traffic

While not nearly what they were pre-pandemic, traffic levels are on the rise around the country.

Each of the past few years, Americans have set new records for how many miles they’ve driven; however, the coronavirus pandemic has put a halt to that trend in recent months, including the 39.8% drop in April.

The U.S. Department of Transportation revealed that motorists traveled 112 billion fewer miles in April compared with the same period last year. Not surprisingly, all of that decline has been tied to the stay-at-home orders issued in so many states.

In April, drivers traveled 169.6 billion vehicle miles, which has been trend in recent months. In the first four months of 2020, U.S. motorists drove fewer miles than in any year since 2001, traveling 875.9 billion miles, down 14.8%.

(Self-driving cars will eliminate only a third of crashes, IIHS claims.)

Traffic has been creeping back to normal levels in May, achieving that return in six U.S. cities, according to INRIX.

Traffic is still low when compared with year-ago results, according to transportation analytics firm INRIX Inc., which has been tracking the nation’s movement for 12 weeks now. It noted some changes in the seven-day period ended Friday, June 5, according to INRIX.

  • Personal travel down 12% vs. 16% in Week 11
  • Long haul truck travel down 3% vs. 13.5% in Week 11 (Memorial Day skewed Week 11 low)
  • Local fleets in Metro Areas down 2% vs. 18% in Week 11 (Memorial Day skewed Week 11 low)

Geographically speaking there were notable trends as well that showed more and more people are on the move. Personal travel in Hawaii was up 1% compared with the previous week It was down 48% last week and 49% the week before. The highwater mark was 62%.

(Pandemic keeping holiday travel to lowest levels in two decades.)

Meanwhile long-haul travel by big rigs is coming back too as the economy starts to ramp back up. The biggest change was in Texas where it was down 13% last week, compared with 22% the preceding week. Nationwide long-haul truck travel increased in last week, down 3%, which compared favorably to a 13.5% drop in the week of May 24.

This has been an increasingly common scene for American motorists in recent weeks.

INRIX notes that the previous week was skewed by Memorial Day, with travel drops on Sunday through Tuesday of the holiday weekend not matching the general trend of recovery.

Metropolitan Area personal travel increased overall again last, with 89 of the 98 metropolitan areas tracked increasing last week including six areas have now fully “recovered:” Mobile, Alabama; Pensacola, Florida; Knoxville, Tennessee; Wichita, Kansas; Toledo, Ohio; and Corpus Christi, Texas. Of those that were down again, San Francisco topped this, down 38% last week compared to 37% the week of May 24, and 61% from the highest point.

(Smog down by as much as 30%, feds find, but traffic is on the rebound.)

The DOT noted the biggest declines in April were found in the Northeast, where traffic fell by 47%. Among individual states, driving fell 50.5% in Connecticut, 50.4% in Hawaii, 49.3% in New Jersey and 47.2% in Maryland.

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