Noticing fewer people on the road? You’re not imagining things.
The coronavirus pandemic is leading to reduced highway traffic on American roadways in certain major metropolitan areas as many people begin to telecommute and avoid social interaction.
Congestion is easing in places like New York, Los Angeles, Seattle and San Francisco, according to traffic figures provided exclusively to USA TODAY by HERE Technologies, a location data and technology company with more than 9,000 employees.
“COVID-19 is having a rolling impact on traffic congestion across the U.S., with significant reductions in traffic levels seen across West Coast cities, with East Coast cities starting to see tangible drops as well,” said Steve Harding, HERE’s director of traffic and connected services.
The upshot is that driving from place to place could quickly become faster than ever.
But that doesn’t mean you should be hitting the road since authorities are advising people to practice “social distancing” and avoid public gatherings wherever possible. Hundreds of thousands of lives may be a stake, according to health authorities.
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Here’s a snapshot of how highway traffic is changing in several major cities (all figures reflect 8 a.m. local time on March 11, 2020, compared with 8 a.m. local time on March 11, 2019).
In Seattle, highway traffic plummeted 64%, according to HERE. Seattle has been particularly hard hit by the COVID-19 outbreak, and major local employer Amazon has encouraged its employees to work from home.
HERE’s data is based on real-time and historical traffic figures and is created through the aggregation of billions of data points from internet-connected devices, car sensors and public sources.
In San Francisco, highway traffic plummeted 59%. San Francisco is at the heart of the nation’s tech economy, which has converted many workers to telecommuting in recent days.
In Los Angeles, highway traffic was down 13%. Like other major cities, major employers and events in Los Angeles have taken steps to prevent people from interacting in tight quarters.
HERE also reported that the typically congested roads entering Los Angeles International Airport were showing no levels of congestion on Wednesday morning.
New York City
In New York, highway traffic was down 10%. That was a day before Broadway closed. Many of the city’s major museums, sporting venues and other large public spaces have also been temporarily shuttered.
In Washington, D.C., highway traffic was up 47%. “Most” federal agencies have not yet authorized telework for their employees, according to trade journal Government Executive.
Follow USA TODAY reporter Nathan Bomey on Twitter @NathanBomey.