Mar 7, 2022 - News

Denver's new post-pandemic rush hour goes all day

Data: TomTom Traffic Index 2021; Chart: Jacque Schrag/Axios
Data: TomTom Traffic Index 2021; Chart: Jacque Schrag/Axios

The pandemic didn't kill rush hour in Denver — it just spread traffic throughout the day.

What's happening: The shift to remote work and more flexible hours put fewer cars on the road last year during traditional peak travel times — particularly the morning commute, according to TomTom Traffic Index 2021.

  • Overall, traffic congestion is still down compared to pre-pandemic times, but midday travel in the Denver areas is just as congested as 2019, the new data shows.
  • The morning and evening commutes are about 15% less congested compared to pre-pandemic.

Why it matters: The change in traffic patterns could be one of the lasting trends of the pandemic, but a lot will depend on whether remote work sticks around, writes Axios' Joann Mueller.

By the numbers: Travel times in Denver were 18% longer during rush hour periods in 2021, up 3% from 2020 but 5% lower than 2019.

  • That means a 30-minute trip takes 5 minutes longer.

The big picture: Denver ranked as the 33rd most congested city in America. Traffic congestion isn't as bad as it was before COVID upended our weekday commute, but it's still stealing our time.

  • Denver drivers lost 41 hours in traffic in 2021, nearly two entire days.

Be smart: In Denver, rush hour times are a little different than other cities. The congestion ends earlier, particularly on Fridays. And it's far less jammed on Mondays and Fridays, the data shows.

  • The worst time to drive is the 4–6pm weekday block, followed by the 3pm hour.
  • The 2pm hour is as busy as 6-7pm with congestion near 20%, slightly above average

How it works: TomTom collects hundreds of millions of anonymized GPS signals from cars and smartphones around the world to analyze traffic in more than 400 cities.

What to watch: Month by month, congestion has been building in the U.S.

  • "Rush hour is coming back slowly," TomTom says. "The question is, what will the new normal look like?"

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