National Traffic Is Back Up and May Exceed Pre-COVID-19 Levels

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Traffic Volume is No Longer at Historical Lows

In the United States, overall national traffic volumes were at their lowest level on April 5, 2020, when total traffic was down 52% versus the prior year. Nation-wide truck traffic was at its lowest level on April 10, with truck traffic down 20%.

On May 29, overall traffic volumes in the US were only down 19.1% versus last year, with national truck volumes only down 4.2%.

According to data collected by MS2, the US State with the steepest traffic volume decrease, year over year, was Massachusetts, which hit its traffic nadir on March 29, 2020, with a decrease in traffic volume of 63%. On May 29, Massachusetts’ traffic was down 27.2%. The State of Tennessee suffered the least decline in overall traffic, with its lowest point a reduction of 39% on April 4, 2020. Tennessee’s traffic was moving swiftly with a volume reduction of only 10.6% on May 29, 2020.

Be sure to check MS2’s Traffic Dashboard for daily traffic volume updates.

As the nation recovers from the Coronavirus pandemic, what can we expect to happen to traffic volumes?

enter image description here

Factors Indicating More Traffic on Roads as US Recovers from Pandemic

Ridership on mass transit has declined 90% in the San Francisco Bay Area. In New York City, subway ridership has decreased 90% and bus ridership has decreased 80%. Demand for mass transit in the Seattle area is so low that their Community Transit organization suspended all fares.

The Chicago Sun Times reported “It’s unclear whether anything resembling the tin-of-sardines transit experience will ever return in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing.”

Bloomberg Businessweek reported “When workers head back to the office, some may determine it’s less risky to drive, bike, or walk than to pack inside a bus or train.” Candace Brakewood, professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville said “These riders will be very slow to return—and may never return. Those who will return are the dependent riders, without a car and without the means to purchase a car.”

The Centers for Disease Control actively discourages the use of mass transit, suggesting that employers should “offer employees incentives to use forms of transportation that minimize close contact with others, such as offering reimbursement for parking for commuting to work alone or single-occupancy rides.”

enter image description here

Factors Indicating Less Traffic on Roads as US Recovers from Pandemic

On the other hand, Global Workplace Analytics expects that 25-30% of the US workforce will be working-from-home multiple days a week by the end of 2021, whereas before the pandemic, only 3.6% of the US workforce worked from home. And Gartner recently surveyed their CFO clients and reported that 74 percent expect some of their employees who were forced to work from home during the pandemic to continue working remotely after the pandemic ends. Forty two percent of surveyed CFOs expect 10 – 20% of those employees to continue working remotely after the crisis ends.

What Do You Think?

Will the increase in remote workers offset the loss in mass transit ridership?

MS2 would like to hear from you. What do you believe we can expect with regard to traffic volumes and traffic management as life in the United States begins to return to a new version of “normal?” Email us at and let us know. We’ll publish your input in a future blog article.

Image Attribution:

Daniel Christensen, Crowded Metromover, CC BY-SA 3.0

THOR, Home Sweet Studio, CC BY 2.0

  • Traffic Count
  • cloud-based traffic count database system
  • transportation data management system