NEW YORK/LONDON, Jan 12 (Reuters) - Coronavirus-induced
lockdowns caused annual traffic congestion to fall in most
countries for the first time in at least 10 years, disrupting
long-held traffic patterns like the dreaded morning commute to
work, a report released on Tuesday showed.
Congestion declined sharply on the gridlocked roads of
crowded cities, including Los Angeles, Bengaluru and Mexico City
in 2020, location technology company TomTom said. The
pandemic is expected to weigh again on traffic congestion this
year, said Nick Cohn, TomTom's senior traffic expert.
"We're going to see continued restrictions through the first
half of the year, and I think we're going to see a lot of ups
and downs before we're really getting back to any normal driving
patterns and traffic activity levels," Cohn told Reuters in an
TomTom's report is based on data from 416 cities in 57
countries. It has published its traffic index for 10 years.
The downturn in congestion in the United States was more
prolonged compared with Europe last year because U.S.
coronavirus cases stayed relatively high during the summer and
early fall, Cohn said.
In the United States, Los Angeles, New York and Miami were
the most congested cities, though traffic in each city dropped
from 2019 levels by 36%, 30% and 26%, respectively, TomTom data
Overall, Moscow was the most congested city in 2020, but
traffic fell 8% from 2019. Bengaluru was the most-congested city
in the world in 2019, but it fell to sixth in 2020 with nearly a
30% of drop in traffic year-on-year.
Traffic in London and Paris was almost 20% lower than in
2019, and traffic in Madrid and Rome dropped 35% and 29%,
respectively. Berlin experienced only a 6% traffic fall compared
Traffic patterns like the daily morning commute to work - a
mainstay for decades - could shift because of increased
flexibility around remote work for employees, Cohn said.
"In the U.S., Canada and Mexico, if you look at peak travel
patterns, the morning peak seems to have melted away," he said.
"We have never seen that before."
Traffic congestion during rush hours last year decreased by
25% globally, said Stephanie Leonard, TomTom's head of traffic
innovation and policy.
As more people return to office following vaccine
distributions, congestion levels could rise if commuters choose
to avoid public transit and drive to office instead, said John
Kilduff, partner at Again Capital LLC in New York.
(Reporting by Stephanie Kelly in New York and Bozorgmehr
Sharafed in London; Editing by Dan Grebler)