DC-region traffic rebounded in summer but still below average

The number of cars crowding D.C.-area roads has rebounded since coronavirus lockdowns took hold in early spring, though it has not yet recovered to pre-pandemic levels, according to a new analysis of traffic levels in the capital region.

Roadway volume bottomed out in April at about 50% of what the same period saw in 2019, according to the report from the National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board, a federally-designated group that provides traffic data for local officials. The report attributed the decline in traffic to stay-at-home orders.

A TPB analysis of traffic at its counting stations compared to what was seen during the same month last year. (Courtesy TPB)

Summer saw traffic recover somewhat, with July and August traffic standing at an average of 20% below what would normally be expected.

Arlington, Alexandria and D.C. — what the study classified as the region’s core — experienced the sharpest drop and have been the slowest to bounce back.

Farther out in Loudoun and Prince William counties in Virginia and Frederick, Charles and Calvert counties in Maryland, traffic has seen a more marked recovery with summer traffic levels reported at just 15% under their 2019 equivalent.

“Typical weekday morning and afternoon traffic peaks were also noted to be less prominent since the pandemic began in the region,” TPB wrote in a news release summarizing its findings on Tuesday.

Air traffic trends in 2020 compared to 2019. (Courtesy TPB)

The organization also crunched the numbers on air travel in 2020 compared with 2019. It found air traffic at major Washington and Baltimore-region hubs rapidly dwindled starting in February before bottoming out in April, and have only saw a slight rebound ever since.

If it were any other year, TPB’s data suggests air travel would have steadily increased from the beginning of the year through July — but in 2020, air boardings peaked in January and have yet to fully recover more than six months since the pandemic began.

More Coronavirus news

Looking for more information? D.C., Maryland and Virginia are each releasing more data every day. Visit their official sites here: Virginia | Maryland | D.C.


Alejandro Alvarez

Alejandro Alvarez joined WTOP as a digital journalist and editor in June 2018. He is a reporter and photographer focusing on politics, political activism and international affairs.

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