The Need for Speed on America’s Highways Fulfilled With Lockdowns

(Bloomberg) -- Confining Americans to their residences helps keep them away from the coronavirus. It’s also distancing them from their home away from home: their cars.

Using technology that tracks automobiles and freight trucks, Inrix Research says traffic for personal use is down 46% since early March while truck movement is down just 13%. That’s relieving congestion in typically gridlocked cities like San Francisco and Los Angeles, where average travel speeds are up near 50%. Drivers are rolling along 40% faster around New York and 20% quicker in Chicago. 

The Need for Speed on America’s Highways Fulfilled With Lockdowns

Such smooth sailing saved drivers a lot of time around big cities during the afternoon rush, according to Inrix: 

  • Travel time along an eight-mile stretch of the Brooklyn Queens Expressway was down 68%. 
  • On the notoriously gridlocked Interstate 405 in Los Angeles, it was down 73%.
  • Time spent navigating Chicago’s twin arteries of I-290 and I-90 fell more than 60%.
  • Along Interstate 285 in Atlanta, there was a 52% reduction.

The point of Inrix’s research is to highlight how the reduction of traffic congestion around urban areas is allowing freight companies to get essential goods where they’re needed quickly.

“As we recover, the efficient movement of goods is going to be essential in revitalizing sectors of the economy that were hard hit by Covid, like manufacturing, aerospace, and restaurant and hospitality,” says Bob Pishue, a transportation analyst at Inrix. “By saving fleet operators and trucking companies valuable time, they can deploy fleets much more efficiently and effectively to accommodate reopening certain sectors of the economy.”

But the results add another layer of complexity to state governments’ decisions to reopen their economies and give people the freedom to consume again. As some states reopen and people retake the roadways, the upswing in personal traffic will slow trucks on interstate missions that are trying to reach parts of the country still shut down.

“It is important to note that passenger vehicles account for the overwhelming majority of vehicle miles traveled and have a direct impact on the movement of goods and services throughout the country,” Inrix’s report says. Personal auto use “substantially impacts the movement of freight through congested corridors, increasing freight delays and incidents on the roadway.”

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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