Dec 7, 2021 - Economy & Business

Fewer people are driving downtown since COVID

Data: Inrdownto5wnix; Chart: Sara Wise/Axios
Data: Inrdownto5wnix; Chart: Sara Wise/Axios

Americans are still avoiding downtown travel in many cities, a sign that COVID-19 continues to affect when, where and how people move.

The big picture: Traffic congestion is returning to many U.S. cities, but has yet to match pre-pandemic levels, according to new data from INRIX, a mobility research firm. One reason: people aren't making as many trips downtown.

What's happening: Many employees continued to work remotely in 2021.

  • San Francisco (-49%), Detroit (-41%) and Washington, D.C. (-38%) continued to see significant reductions in downtown trips compared to February 2020.
  • Downtown trips were close to normal, however, in San Antonio (-5%), Tampa (-6%) and Phoenix (-7%).
  • Of note: The data includes trips downtown for sporting events, shows and restaurants, not just work commutes.

Nationwide, downtown trips have decreased 22% compared to pre-COVID levels.

The bottom line: The average American driver spent 36 hours stuck in traffic in 2021 — worse than last year — but far below 2019 levels, when drivers wasted nearly 100 hours in traffic.

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