“What it means is people are not going out,” said David King, a transportation planner who teaches at Arizona State University. “They’re not going to work, and you’re seeing broadband demand drop off.”
“It’s very significant,” said Sam Schwartz, a former New York traffic commissioner known as Gridlock Sam. “It’s the kind of congestion levels you only see when you have a major holiday in effect and schools are closed and many people are off from work.”
Last week’s traffic numbers indicated traffic dropped significantly during both the morning and evening rush. Between March 9 and 13, traffic congestion during the 8 a.m. rush was down 13.5% compared with the same week in 2019, the company analysis found. During the 5 p.m. rush out of the city, TomTom showed traffic congestion was down a bit more than 26% compared with the same week last year.
“It tells me people are staying away, and they’re doing it rapidly,” King said. “I expect the numbers will become more pronounced.”
An obvious explanation for the change is the response to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s and Mayor Bill de Blasio’s most recent announcements and executive orders aimed at distancing New Yorkers from the fast-spreading coronavirus. Cuomo issued executive orders Monday, banning crowds of more than 50 people and limiting all bars and restaurants to take-out and delivery services. De Blasio announced Sunday that all public schools in New York will be closed until at least April 23.
“If everybody works from home or the city locks down, then demand for transportation will crater,” King said.
“If we look at the trend from last week, this is definitely not a blip,” TomTom analyst Gijs Peters said.
“The MTA will be in serious financial trouble based on the collapse of fare revenue,” King said.
“This will be a real hardship on many people,” King said. “This is far beyond transportation.”