The pandemic ended its peak period. What happened now?

Before everything gets The strange and scary thing is that these things are called peak hours. For example, between 6 am and 10 am, many people leave their homes to go to work or school, filling up roads, buses, subways, and bicycle lanes. Then, from 3pm to 7pm, they will reverse their itinerary.

Then came the global pandemic and nationwide shutdowns, and things were quiet for a while. According to traffic analysis company StreetLight Data, by the early spring of 2020, the number of miles traveled by vehicles has dropped by 40%. Those who live near highways and usually busy city streets enjoy clear skies and blissful tranquility.

Now, the rush hour is back. Streetlight Data estimates that the mileage of U.S. vehicles in March 2021 increased by 20% over the same period last year. But the traffic patterns are very different. In many large cities in the United States, the morning peak once was more like jogging. Instead, the amount of traffic increased slowly throughout the day, eventually ending in the afternoon rush hour.

For example, in the San Francisco metropolitan area, compared with the previous year, the number of miles traveled by vehicles during the peak period from 7 am to 8 am at the end of the winter this year has dropped by about half. However, the number of miles traveled during the evening peak between 5 and 6 pm was reduced by only a quarter. This winter, the total vehicle mileage in the area still dropped by 25%.

Experts say that transportation is a weather vane, which can provide insight into the economic vitality, goals and characteristics of a region. Now, as more and more Americans get vaccinated, return to work and school, and resume their social lives, government officials are eager to discover which parts of the travel behavior during the pandemic are related to the lockdown and which stems from the broader remote work policy , Can stay here. Some cities are funding research on these questions; the answers are likely to point to the city’s future.

The travel behavior of people who work from home is not as simple as it seems. Research on telecommuters before the pandemic shows that people working from home tend to show up in the afternoon. Many people took to the streets and went to cafes, libraries, work meetings and client websites. Jonathan Stiles, a postdoctoral researcher at Ohio State University, studied the travel behavior of telecommuters. He found that people who are flexible or suitable for telecommuting tend to take advantage of this flexibility to stay at home in the morning and then later. Go out and take an adventure. One of his studies It was found that only one-third of remote workers stayed in one place all day. If more people feel they can move around safely, they may increase traffic.

Other researchers point out that allowing people to work remotely sometimes encourages workers to move from densely populated city centers and suburbs to more distant areas. in the end, They might end up driving more, Just to run the same type of errand as before.

To some extent, some officials like to see traffic recover. “You think this is positive. This is more economic activity,” said Darin Chidsey, chief operating officer of the Southern California Association of Governments, a regional planning organization representing 191 cities. Locals going out in the afternoon means “people will come back to pick up their children to school, participate in activities, and go shopping.”

His organization wants to understand what happened in this post-pandemic period in order to make plans for the reality of the post-pandemic.Last year it Started collaborating with researchers from the University of California, Davis Learn how the pandemic affects local employment, family organization, shopping, vehicle ownership, travel patterns, and overall equity issues, and what changes may be permanent.If researchers find that more people will continue to work from home, it may Open opportunities in cities and towns Once considered a sleepy bedroom community-used for the revitalization of the local city center, and eventually received more local taxes.

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