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How empty streets now could lead to better commutes later

Traffic analytics firm INRIX reports that nationwide, personal driving trips are down 47% for the week ending April 3 – a drop close to one in every two cars.

WASHINGTON — Streets across the country are empty right now – and transportation experts hope that could lead to better commutes when a recovery does ultimately occur.

“There’s a lot we should be paying attention to,” said Stewart Schwartz, executive director of the D.C.-based Coalition for Smarter Growth. 

Nationwide, traffic analytics firm INRIX reports personal driving trips are down 47% for the week ending April 3 – a drop close to one in every two cars.

Schwartz says the positive in this grim pandemic is that stay-at-home orders could lead to a permanent uptick in working from home, meaning better traffic for everybody.

“I think many employees will be going back to their employers and be saying, hey, let’s do this more. Even if we don’t do it five days a week, if we do it one or two days a week, it’ll do all we need to do to reduce traffic on the roadways,” said Schwartz.

INRIX says that Washington is the fifth-most congested region in the country and the 21st-most congested in the world. Schwartz acknowledges that empty streets will not last – but hopes their legacy does.

“If we could reduce peak-hour trips by just 5%, most of our roadways would flow better without ever having to widen them again,” said Schwartz.

INRIX says traffic has been free-falling for the last month – and analysts think we may have hit the lowest level possible. Numbers for this week are due out on Monday.

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