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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.

Go deeper

Dallas has second-highest U.S. traffic fatality rate

Data: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration; Chart: Axios Visuals

Dallas has the second highest traffic fatality rate among the most populous cities in the country, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

  • Fort Worth ranks fourth.

Why it matters: Dallas City Council has already adopted the goal to eliminate traffic deaths and reduce severe injuries from crashes by 2030.

Updated 24 mins ago - Energy & Environment

Bomb cyclone prompts blizzard warnings from Virginia to Maine

Computer model projection showing the intense storm off of Cape Cod on Jan 29, 2022, with heavy snow and strong winds lashing the coastline. (Weatherbell.com)

Blizzard warnings are in effect for 11 million people from coastal Virginia to eastern Maine as a potentially historic winter storm is set to slam the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast beginning Friday.

Why it matters: The storm will bring hazards ranging from zero visibility amid hurricane force wind gusts and heavy snow, to coastal flooding that will erode vulnerable beaches and threaten property from the Jersey shore to coastal Massachusetts.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Swastikas found outside Union Station in D.C.

People walk through Union Station on Jan. 16 in Washington, D.C. Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Drawings of swastikas appeared etched around the entrance to Union Station in Washington, D.C., on Friday morning.

Driving the news: "An investigation is underway with Amtrak Police and the Metropolitan Police Department after swastikas were reported on the exterior of Washington Union Station on Friday," Amtrak spokesperson Kimberly Woods said in a statement to Axios.