By on June 23, 2020

Without getting into the thick, tangled weeds of various coronavirus-related controversies, let it be known that, in some states, the streets and highways have returned to traffic levels seen before “lockdown” became common verbiage.

Yes, a good many of you are really putting miles under your belt (and tires). It’s summer, it’s hot, and lockdown measures are mainly a thing of the past, despite the rising levels of COVID-19 reported in regions that initially escaped the worst of the initial wave. But just how much are you driving?

In 29 states, as much or more than during the last week of February, according to data compiled by analytics firm INRIX.

The company, which focuses on the mobility sector, claims U.S. traffic volumes reached 90 percent of the country’s pre-lockdown level in the week ending June 19th, the Washington Post reports. INRIX uses the week of February 22nd to 28th as a control week, as it preceded any coronavirus traffic disruption.

Traffic volume fell precipitously from mid-March onward, bottoming out in the first half of April. Last week, nationwide passenger travel was only down 3 percent compared to pre-virus levels, INRIX data shows, up from the 7-percent decline seen the week before. On Friday, passenger travel hit 99.3 percent of the level seen in the control week.

Much variation exists between regions, of course. Only two states didn’t boost their tally of passenger miles traveled last week (Hawaii and North Carolina, both of which stayed static), while seven additional states saw their traffic volumes top pre-virus levels. For all you salivating partisans out there, California, Florida, and Arizona all recorded an increase in miles traveled last week. However, each of these states remain below pre-virus levels, so make of that what you will.

Places like Alabama, Alaska, Colorado, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Nevada, and North Dakota sit well above pre-virus levels, with the “most driven” award going to Wyoming, at 152 percent of pre-virus volume. South Dakota and Montana are close runners-up. Each of these states, you’ll note, enjoy low levels of COVID-19 and are not known for their balmy winter weather, so a control week from late February skews perception quite a bit. It does for the entire country. People are typically heading out in June and staying home in February.

INRIX addresses this. Using historical Federal Highway Administration data as a guide, the firm stated, “The 3% reduction in nationwide personal travel actually understates the true change in expected travel. To simplify, for every 97 miles traveled in the US last week, we could have expected 116.5 miles if not for the virus.  Thus, the 3% reduction translates into a roughly 17% reduction, seasonally adjusted.”

Still facing restrictions on tourism, Hawaii is by far the state with the least amount of driving. It sits at 54 percent of its pre-virus volume.

On a city level, passenger miles dropped most significantly in San Francisco, Orlando, Miami, and Fort Myers last week compared to the week prior. Washington DC, New York City, Baltimore, and Phoenix, too, though the former four cities by a greater degree than the latter.

[Image: General Motors]

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27 Comments on “You’re All Driving Quite a Bit These Days...”


  • avatar
    ToolGuy

    “But just how much are you driving?”

    Moved one of the vehicles in our fleet this morning to avoid flat spots on the tires (by putting it in neutral and pushing it, to avoid a short start-up cycle and additional wear). It’s like I’m running a museum. That’s how much I’m driving.

    • 0 avatar
      dukeisduke

      Agreed. I’ve driven my Tacoma less than 2,000 in the last 4-1/2 months, and that includes an 800+ mile trip over Mother’s Day weekend, to collect my oldest daughter’s stuff from the rent house she lived in this last college academic year. My driving now consists of errands to various stores, since I’m working from home.

  • avatar
    indi500fan

    Based on the traffic maps here in Indy at am/pm rush, traffic is still well below previous averages.

    • 0 avatar
      S197GT

      can confirm. making great time when i go into the office in the morning and head home in the afternoon. 70 west into downtown normal morning traffic i will slow to 50 mph or less; coming to a stop not uncommon.

      since pandemic i’m flying at 75mph+ into downtown right up to my downtown exit.

      i only go in a couple of times a week. i have to think not everyone is working from home. the unemployment is bad (wife got furloughed last week about two months after breaking into six figure income).

    • 0 avatar
      redapple

      Indi:

      Same here in Atlanta. Rush hour is still all green on the traffic map apps.

      But. I live on 1 of the 2 lakes in North Metro Atlanta. The marina is JAMMED TO THE MAX. Easy double last summer.

      Unemployment.
      Cash + $600/week supplement.
      Kinder out of school.
      Restaurants. movies, Bars, closed or nearly so.

      What s there to do? Lake !!!

    • 0 avatar
      theflyersfan

      Indi – being 100 miles south of you on I-65, it’s the same thing here. I just started returning to the office a couple of weeks ago before eventually starting a hybrid home/office schedule, and the usual chokepoints around 65/264 and 64/264/US-60 in the mornings is still flowing much better than usual. I’ve heard with all of the protests in downtown that many offices and state/government workers are continuing to work from home – my office has pushed back the return of a small number of people several times already, so it’s just play it by ear. I’ve spoken to a few colleagues in other cities and they have all said the same thing. If you can work from home, you’re staying at home.

      I have noticed that weekend traffic has picked up considerably though – our interstates in April…you could walk down the middle of them and not get hit. Now, it’s a game of Frogger.

  • avatar
    eggsalad

    I’m taking quite a few day trips for hikes. Hard to get more socially distanced than being inside a car and then hiking an empty trail. Also helps kill the boredom.

    Regardless, my annual mileage for 2020 is on course to be 60% of what I did last year. I’m in an industry projected to be one of the last to re-open. Haven’t worked since 3/5.

  • avatar
    Steve Biro

    I’m another one who’s not driving much at all. Still working from home and it’s basically a visit to the store every week or two. It doesn’t help that the crowds have returned to the New Jersey Shore this summer. I’m a native so I don’t even bother getting near the beaches like I might during the fall, winter and early spring.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    Traffic here in Seattle is lower than before at rush hour but close to normal levels at other times. People are starting to act as though COVID-19 doesn’t exist, even as we keep having new cases and deaths, and it’s a bit scary.

    I’m driving about as much as I did before, with the big caveat that I didn’t drive to work before. I’ll be working from home until at least the end of the year. My wife has been undergoing some (non-emergency) medical treatments so that has increased the driving.

  • avatar
    gasser

    Two cars between my wife and me. I have filled the tank in each once since March 16th. I will occasionally go out to market or such. My take on L.A. traffic is that it is still notably below lock down level. This means that at rush hour, it may be heavy, but is still moving without “stop and go”. For cities like NY, SF and Chicago, I expect many who used to use the rapid transit system are driving to work, thus offsetting the WFH crowd.

  • avatar
    thegamper

    In Michigan (Detroit area), I have a 50 mile round trip commute to my office and back. I am working full time but going into the office 2-3 days per week. I would estimate traffic on one of the busiest highways in Detroit to be less than 50% of typical.

    I park in a large parking structure in Downtown Detroit. A lot of government workers and office workers typically would use the garage. I would estimate that it is operating with about 10% or less of normal volume. Obviously a lot of non-essential workers who are at home still. My experience tells me that many government workers (Federal, State, City) havent lifted a finger since mid March. It is a curiosity to me why they havent been called back given that the state is now open. Think I am just bitter that I didnt get a pandemic vacation like so many people I know, sucks having to actually generate revenue.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    My driving has dropped about 50-60% due to WFH and other curtailments, but the roads look as busy as ever. I sat in traffic this morning.

  • avatar
    stuntmonkey

    Traffic is noticeably back up in Vancouver. Everybody is still working from home but the transit system is operating with distancing measures in place, so reduced capacity there, and if you want to maintaining distancing you drive.

  • avatar
    JMII

    I am putting gas in my daily driver (C7) every 2 months instead of every 2 weeks since the work-from-home orders. Based on company emails we’ve got another month of this before we have to report back to the office, but that could change. Even then we will likely be on a limited in-office schedule to avoid everyone being in the office at once.

    Driving around the other day I noticed the mall parking lot is returning to pre-COVID levels. My wife reports stores aren’t stocked very well and have limited hours so not sure why people are over there (especially with cases spiking here in FL)… guess they are just bored.

  • avatar
    Russycle

    Put gas in the car last week, first time since early March, or maybe February. But the motorcycle’s been racking up a lot of miles. Weather turned nice just as we went into lockdown, and a couple hours on the bike is a great antidote for stir-crazy.

  • avatar
    Scoutdude

    My driving is definitely up from the lows but the gas in the cars is still from March or April. Finally going to go put gas in one of them tonight.

  • avatar
    Tele Vision

    My accumulated miles have not changed a whit. No days off at all but the one merge I have to do during my 10-minute commute could nearly be done blind at the moment. The traffic heading into the city is strengthening but still less than 30% of what it was. Two months ago I had the highway to myself. It was weird.

  • avatar
    conundrum

    How much am I driving? As much as I need to. Thanks for asking.

  • avatar
    rocketrodeo

    Since early March, I have made a 540-mile round trip EVERY weekend, doing maintenance chores on the family farm that my elderly father can’t do right now. Traffic on the West Virginia Turnpike was downright pleasant for a couple months, but after Memorial day it has ratcheted up significantly. I will miss the low gas prices. It’s never been easier to keep a 14mpg truck fed.

  • avatar
    Lou_BC

    I’ve been driving more than normal and have had my motorcycle out as well. I haven’t been going on any long trips. My bike only has a 160-180 km fuel range so any excursions require fuel stops. I wear a mask when I go into gas stations and use hand sanitizer. My province has done an exceptionally good job at controlling COVID-19 so risks are currently low. Some of the back roads I’ve been on have shown busier than normal traffic flows. People are going out in to the wilderness as an alternative to city parks and recreation areas.

  • avatar
    don1967

    We’ve been rotating our fleet through the occasional scenic drive, to alleviate cabin fever and burn off aging E10 fuel before it turns into Elmer’s Glue.

    We are the frontline warriors.

  • avatar

    No change in driving for me pre, during or post. (I work in an essential industry.) It was fascinating seeing the drop in March and the return about 2 to 3 weeks ago. My younger son is still doing less as the company he works for shifted many of their employees to WAH. That said, he may have gotten some drive time back doing InstaCart.

    As an aside, that has been a bright spot for some. A friend who works in the airline industry saw a sharp decline in work and began doing InstaCart. Made $2k his first week and leveled off to around $1k/wk as he set weekly goals. Another friend set a goal of $500/week which was easily accomplished in about 3 days. Heard reports this varies by region, but it certainly has been helpful for those needing the extra income in my area (Central IA).

  • avatar
    jthorner

    Driving in our household is still far below February levels, though not at where we were in April. Telecommuting as a new way of working has really taken hold for “knowledge workers” around here and looks like it will be an ongoing way of working for many, many people. That continues to mean almost no rush hour to speak of here in Silicon Valley.

    Transit ridership, on the other hand, is at record lows and will likely stay way down for a long time. That is having the effect of increasing driving somewhat.

    Oh, and hopping in a private Uber/Lyft is suddenly not a thing, when just a few months ago it was growing like crazy. That is freeing up all kinds of parking places at these app-enabled gypsy cabs have thinned way out.

  • avatar
    Nedmundo

    I’ve worked from home for years, and my wife walks to work, so we weren’t driving on a daily basis anyway, but the pandemic has still reduced our driving considerably. For example, no road trips to tour colleges with our younger daughter, no visiting my elderly parents in CT, and no socializing with friends out in the suburbs. I haven’t been outside Philly’s city limits in months.

    The traffic on the highways around Philly seems to be near pre-pandemic levels. It started to pick up about a month ago, which I noticed when jogging on a road that runs parallel to I-76. But traffic within Center City is still very light. Even though offices are opening, many folks are still working from home.

  • avatar
    Dan

    I’ve driven about as much as usual throughout this. I already did most of my work at home, nearly all of my hobbies are outdoors, the only trips that I gave up were the gym and the occasional dinner out.

    I loved it. Ordinary Maryland traffic ranges from take the fun out of driving all of the time to just don’t during the four hour rush hours and being able to go somewhere on a whim in the afternoon was a breath of fresh air.

  • avatar
    tankinbeans

    I drive in twice a week and work from home the other 3, then I go to the gym. Otherwise I’m generally dithering around in town for the few errands that I run. Typically I’m running about 1,500 a month, but lately I’ve been in the 800s.

    That said I notice drivers getting dumber and dumber as they toddle around. I think the weeks of not driving have further diminished their skills and the phones are even more important than ever.

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