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Traffic patterns and emissions changing due to COVID-19

Posted at 3:46 PM, Apr 09, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-10 17:34:26-04

A commute to work these days looks a lot different.

Instead of fighting through traffic to get to the office, most of us just get out of bed and head to the next room with a make-shift office.

With many people in Arizona now telecommuting and staying-at-home, our traffic patterns and emissions have already started to change. Now, there is research to see a bigger picture of what our roads look like.

The Maricopa Association of Governmentstracks speed data on Valley roadways and have seen far fewer cars, but a steady amount of freight and semi-trucks.

MAG Executive Director Eric Anderson said commuters have dropped one-third since the pandemic began. However, that number seemed low to him.

"I think between now and mid-April, I think. we'll probably even see more dramatic decline in traffic," Anderson said. "I wouldn't be surprised if we're not at 50% of normal volumes or less."

MAG compiled data about congestion, speed, and delay times and put them into charts for comparison, which you can view here:

Those charts reveal a roughly 20% increase in speeds during the normal PM rush hour.

Another one calculates the hours of delays driver experience because of congestion. Overall, their chart indicates drivers have seen a 40,000-hour decrease in delays compared to before the pandemic.

"There's less wear and tear on the road," Anderson said, explaining other possible benefits. "... it also gives an opportunity, perhaps, for cities and towns, as well as the Arizona Department of Transportation possibly to do some pavement repair when there's a lot less traffic out there too."

They were also able to see a reduction in emissions. The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality is researching now to see if that will mean long-term benefits to our skies.

One thing that has not changed according to MAG's research is the number of freight and semi-trucks coming through to keep up with delivery demands.