Assessing How The COVID-19 Pandemic is Affecting Traffic, Transit Service, and People’s Travel Patterns
Resources and Tools
by Bihui Xu, AICP, Lead Transportation Planner, with Kristen E. Humphrey, MLA, Local Assistance and Training Planner
As Maryland navigates through sheltering in place, reopening, pausing, and slowly reopening, we have seen traffic on major highways drop dramatically in March and April, bounce back in May and June, and stay largely flat July through today. In the meantime, although not shut down, public transit has been scaled back in most places and continues to struggle to attract riders; similarly BWI’s passenger traffic is still more than 80% below its normal level.
People’s mobility behaviors, how often they take trips and how many miles they travel, are also changing during the pandemic. Having the ability to track changes in behaviors and demand for services and reliable data detailing these changes, is important both for state, regional, and local transportation agencies in their efforts to serve the public, as well as for the public to better understand the impacts of the pandemic on transportation services.
The following organizations in Maryland have developed online dashboard tools to provide updated information illustrating the impacts of the pandemic on transportation:
- The Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) posts a graphic showing the weekly usage changes to MDOT-wide facilities and services. MDOT updates the data weekly.
- The Baltimore Metropolitan Council (BMC) in late July 2020 launched its Baltimore Regional Recovery Dashboard including the information on the regional and county-wide COVID-19 transportation impacts. BMC updates the data weekly.
- The Maryland Transportation Institute (MTI) and the Center for Advanced Transportation Technology Laboratory (CATT Lab) at the University of Maryland created the COVID-19 Impact Analysis Platform in April 2020. This interactive, analytical tool provides detailed mobility pattern information such as trip frequency and length, percentage of work or non-work trips, and out-of-county and out-of-state trips using data based upon the numbers of mobile phone, tablet, and other smart-device used by riders. The data is updated daily and is available at the national, state, and county-wide levels.1
In addition, many entities across the country provide free and up-to-date COVID-19-related mobility dashboards. Some commonly used dashboards include Apple’s Mobility Trends Reports; Google’s COVID-19 Community Mobility Reports and the Bureau of Transportation Statistics at the US DOT’s COVID-19 Related Transportation Statistics (the smallest geographic level for each of these is the county level). Another popular COVID transportation data source used by transportation professionals is the INRIX’s Live Coverage of COVID-19 Transportation Trends (smallest geographic level: county, city, and roadways), although it is proprietary and requires a subscription.
For more information, please contact Bihui Xu, Lead Transportation Planner at firstname.lastname@example.org.