In March this year, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic. Since then, the virus has continued to spread, affecting every aspect of our lives. Not surprisingly, COVID-19 has had a notable impact on the transportation sector in terms of mobility and traffic flow. No vaccine or cure is available for the time being, which leaves us exposed in the meantime. Citizens are no longer allowed to meet face to face unless it’s absolutely necessary. The best way to avoid the spread of the infectious disease is to avoid having close personal contact and in-person meetings.
Social interaction has come to a stop everywhere around the world. Numerous travel restrictions have been implemented as an immediate response to COVID-19, addressing the current pandemic, and preparing for other unprecedented scenarios. Long-distance travel is discouraged and, in some cases, prohibited. People have been taught to avoid out-of-home activities as much as possible. And they have reached an informal understanding that they won’t shake hands. We’ve witnessed daily declines in ridership and the declines will continue as major companies and institutions are telecommuting.
Work-related travel has increased for health, community, government, sales, and services
Contrary to what might have been expected, a great many people have returned to commuting in spite of anxiety about the new disease and what could happen. Work-related travel has increased for health care workers, community helpers, government officials, salespeople, and service workers. Road traffic, which is an indicator of economic activity, was still below normal levels yet it’s expected that the trend will go upwards. Organizations, as far as they’re concerned, have begun to design working arrangements around people’s needs while also meeting the needs of the business.
Mobility players are struggling to instill confidence as some have moved to travel across the day with extra cleaning and social distancing measures. Commuters have managed to adapt well to the shifts, either traveling less or working more from home. People aren’t necessarily using their cars, although the CDC affirmed that it’s necessary to protect oneself when using transportation, relying on micro-mobility and carpooling. Those who live in urban areas can resort to bike riding, which makes it easier to get to the workplace. It’s possible to create amenities in some buildings to accommodate bikes, such as lockers and bathrooms with showers.
Is it necessary to rethink the commute? Quite possibly
Commuting 5 days a week is no longer a viable solution. Employees should be allowed to work remotely at least part of the time, so a hybrid office model will be introduced in the months to come. To be more precise, the physical and digital worlds should be merged to adapt to the new trends in work preferences and efforts to combat the coronavirus. Employees will want to commute less often and avoid peak hours as much as possible. Traveling by private car is still popular, the COVID-19 restrictions having an impact on mobility preferences, appreciating the comfort and technologies that equip vehicles.
For some, the personal car is the main option. Parking safely can become a challenge during such a health crisis. Many people end up driving aimlessly for an open spot and it’s only natural to wonder if there is a place for them in this new normal. Companies need to recognize this and make parking an amenity in their building or secure monthly parking. It’s quite difficult to secure a parking spot in a large city, of which example can be made of Chicago. Booking monthly parking in Chicago is a proven solution to guarantee a parking spot near the desired location. Employers can either reimburse staff members for the cost of parking or pay for parking via a salary reduction arrangement.
Traffic moving at faster speeds during COVID-19
Locked down or simply staying closer to home, people haven’t been driving so much in the world during the COVID-19 pandemic. There have been fewer cars on the road, resulting in cleaner air, but not necessarily fewer traffic. As mentioned earlier, traffic will increase slightly due to the number of vehicles on the road, whether we’re talking about personal cars or shuttles. Traffic accidents are becoming common occurrences in the United States because people are moving at faster speeds in the morning and afternoon commutes. Besides the lower traffic volume, causes of these crashes include but aren’t limited to distracted drivers and alcohol abuse.
It’s evident that speed remains one of the main problems when it comes down to traffic collisions. Since there weren’t too many cars on the road, drivers have been able to push the accelerator down. What interventions can be used to limit speed in urban areas? One possible solution might be to use physical design and other similar measures to improve safety for motorists. Examples include road narrowing and the creation of speed bumps. Police resources might have been diverted from traffic duties, so it’s paramount to reinforce road safety measures, even if there’s not a significant volume of cars on the road.
The way we move and will continue to move in the months to come will undoubtedly suffer radical changes. For the first time in a while, roads are free of traffic as some vehicles have disappeared from some of the most populous cities around the globe. Those who are still commuting to work are doing everything possible to shorten their journeys, reacting to the imminent threat. Working from home may become once again mandatory as the world is hit by another wave of COVID-19 infections. Not only has the coronavirus affected people’s lives but also the way in which energy is used in all economies.
Daily routines and lifestyles will be different post-pandemic, to say the least. Unfortunately, there’s no turning back. The only thing we can do is to embrace change and be prepared for future challenges. There are valuable lessons to be learned from this absurd situation and it has never been so important to be flexible and responsive. We can manage the situation in different ways for different outcomes.