|Average time spent In U.S. traffic jams cut by 73 hours during pandemic, study finds|
Crowded cities. Nightmare commutes. Congested roads. Those are some of the challenges spotlighted in the annual Global Traffic Scorecard compiled by traffic analytics company Inrix.
The delays worsen every year. Except 2020.
The coronavirus upended travel across the world, and the company's latest report, issued this week, underscores the dramatic nature of the disruptions.
Traffic delays fell nearly 50 percent in major cities across the U.S. The average American driver spent 26 hours in traffic jams in 2020, a drop of 73 hours from just a year earlier. Collectively, motorists saved approximately 3.4 billion hours that would have been wasted sitting in traffic.
"COVID-19 has completely transformed when, where and how people move," Bob Pishue, transportation analyst at Inrix, said in a written statement. "Government restrictions and the continued spread of the virus led to shifts in travel behavior seemingly overnight."
The company extracts billions of data points from phones, cars, trucks and cities to compile its annual report.
If the open roads represent a silver lining for commuters, the report provided more concerning news for cities. Downtown areas were particularly hard hit by the travel disruptions. Inrix says regional vehicle miles traveled declined 5 to 30 percent in major metro areas, but downtown travel dropped by nearly 60 percent.
Inrix suggests the lagging downtown recovery will have adverse effects on offices, restaurants and entertainment venues.
They're "going to be the last to recover during the re-emergence period," the report said, "likely far into 2021 or 2022."
The most significant disruptions may be in the rearview mirror. But the pandemic's effects on congestion, public transit and the nature of cities themselves will reverberate for years to come.
-- Pete Bigelow