Traffic & Congestion

The image by GPA Photo Archive is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Note from the editor

Vehicular traffic trends were turned on their heads this year as the world adjusted to the limitations of the COVID-19 pandemic. Cities traditionally plagued with gridlock saw virtually empty streets at the onset of the crisis, but as public health guidance fluctuates, so do the projected long-term impacts of COVID-19 on U.S. traffic.

On one hand, 2020 has brought to the forefront new optimism regarding the prospect of car-free streets and pedestrian-focused infrastructure. On the other, pedestrian and driver behaviors have gone awry, leading to spikes in traffic fatality rates despite reduced vehicle miles traveled. 

In the trendline below, we examine how traffic and congestion trends have evolved since March — and how they may shape urban transportation in a post-COVID reality.

Kristin Musulin Senior Editor

NACTO urges shift from 'outdated' speed-limit planning

• Published July 27, 2020

Transportation leaders focus on regaining trust before building anew

Before eyeing new infrastructure, transportation agencies must regain the loyalty of riders who fled to personal cars amid the pandemic.

• Published May 26, 2020

10 congestion pricing principles for cities to consider: report

The Eno Center for Transportation said local leaders should focus on equity and transparency, and limit exemptions to emergency vehicles only.

• Published May 26, 2020

Strategic design can help car-free streets gain popularity post-coronavirus

Cities can use this time of less-traveled streets as a window into the possibilities of car-free streets. But what design changes would they require?

• Published March 27, 2020

The US didn't sign a global road safety pact. Now advocates are fighting back

A road safety conference in Stockholm seemingly lacked representation from the U.S. federal government. Young advocates were left wondering who is taking charge in eliminating road deaths.

• Published March 24, 2020

The pandemic pace: A look at congestion-free speeding and its risks

• Published April 29, 2020

Cities saw a cycling surge amid COVID-19. Will the trend stick?

A spike in biking has led some cities to close streets to vehicular traffic. At the pandemic's end, cycling advocates hope they will have effected real change.

• Published April 27, 2020

New (im)mobility: Can we avoid the private car revenge?

Mobility operators and public leaders must anticipate a post-pandemic shift to single-occupancy vehicle use, and act before urban transportation locks us down again.

• Published April 22, 2020

Risky business: The wins and losses of pandemic-era urban mobility

During a Knight Foundation webinar, mobility leaders discussed the ups and downs that have occurred nationally as transit agencies work to mitigate the impacts of COVID-19.

• Published July 15, 2020

How traffic and congestion trends have evolved since COVID

Vehicular traffic trends were turned on their heads as the world adjusted to the limitations of the pandemic. Cities traditionally plagued with gridlock saw virtually empty streets at the onset of the crisis, but as public health guidance fluctuates, so do the projected long-term impacts of COVID-19 on U.S. traffic.

included in this trendline
  • The wins and losses of pandemic-era urban mobility
  • A look at congestion-free speeding and its risks
  • 10 congestion pricing principles for cities to consider