Changing travel trends during COVID-19
Since the Municipal Emergency Plan was activated on March 12, 2020, The City has continued to collect travel data as part of its regular Transportation Data Collection Program. With increased physical distancing measures in place and the closures of non-essential businesses and schools, a decrease in traffic on Calgary’s roads is to be expected across all transportation modes including public transit, taxi and ridesharing, but there’s more to the data than what initially meets the eye.
While roads like Bow Trail that serve as major commuter routes to downtown Calgary have seen the steepest decline in traffic (60% decrease in weekday traffic), the decline in traffic isn’t as drastic on roads that serve industrial areas. For example, Ogden Road SE south of Bonny Brook Road has seen a 45% decrease in weekday traffic while still serving as an important delivery route for many businesses in the area that continue to operate during the pandemic.
When breaking down what kinds of vehicles are still operating, passenger vehicles as well as buses have seen the largest reduction, but the number of heavy trucks has remained consistent from the beginning of March, even seeing a slight increase the week of March 16. The consistent flow of trucking traffic along Calgary’s road network further emphasizes the importance of supply chains to Calgary’s essential businesses and Calgarians as a whole.
While vehicle traffic has seen an overall decline, many Calgarians have taken to the city’s pathway network (maintaining a safe physical distance, of course) whether it’s for a walk, jog or bike ride. At the end of March, The City’s Transportation Department in coordination with CEMA, closed lanes on select roadways as part of an “adaptive roadway” initiative to give those walking and wheeling more space to be outside.
“It’s important that we monitor our transportation system to ensure it is operating effectively - for example, on the adaptive roadways that allow pedestrians and cyclists to practice physical distancing. From a long-term perspective, it will be important to continue to monitor the system to see if there are future travel behaviour trends after the pandemic has passed," says Ekke Kok, Manager of Transportation Data and Forecasting.
Keeping Calgarians on the move and providing a safe, reliable transportation network continues to be a top priority for The City and for Calgarians who continue to provide essential services during the pandemic. Over the coming months we will continue collecting and analyzing travel data using our network of automatic count stations, with historical traffic data available through our publicly available online tool CalTRACS (Calgary Traffic Counts System). A more detailed report on travel trends for the month of March is available at Calgary.ca/transportationdata.