Daily traffic in Cobb County remains less than half of what it normally is as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, according to the latest data reported by local, state and metropolitan Atlanta authorities.
The Atlanta Regional Commission updated its travel report for the metro area May 6 regarding daily vehicle counts on main routes as well as total vehicle miles traveled, showing traffic volumes on major highway corridors across the metro are down between 34% and 50% overall.
“On March 6, a Friday, the total vehicle miles traveled in the 20-county region nearly hit 400 million,” the ARC reported in its What’s Next ATL publication. “On April 30, a Thursday, that figure stood at about 150 million.”
Traffic levels appear to be increasing in recent weeks, according to data from the Georgia Department of Transportation, which states the reduction in highway traffic peaked on April 6 at 41% and stood at 31% on April 27.
In Cobb County, GDOT compared annual traffic data from a site on Interstate 75 southbound near Delk Road, showing the average daily traffic volumes for the week starting April 2, 2019, and the week starting April 6, 2020.
In the beginning of April 2019 the average daily traffic volume on I-75 south in Cobb was 130,873, and in early April 2020 the number had dropped 39% to 79,378, the data shows.
Data the ARC uses, compiled by national analytics firm StreetLight, shows Cobb’s total daily vehicle miles traveled was 16.8 million on May 10, down about 54% from pre-pandemic levels. The data shows a similar picture in other metropolitan Atlanta counties including Fulton, DeKalb and Gwinnett, which also had daily traffic reductions of more than 50%.
On May 5, Cobb County reported travel volumes, citing ARC data that showed the county’s normal daily vehicle miles traveled is 36 million, with January 2020 used as the baseline.
Vehicle miles traveled in Cobb hit a low of 5.4 million on April 12 (Easter Sunday), representing an 84% drop, the county reports, adding “it looks like traffic is back up to around 13 million which is still 65% lower than normal.”
The ARC says work-based commuting is not the only thing residents are doing a lot less of at the moment. People are also traveling less for retail and recreational purposes, the commission reports, citing Google Mobility data.
Cobb had an estimated 55% reduction in recreation and retail travel, the ARC reported.
“And given these trends, it’s no surprise that total vehicle miles traveled are down sharply — about 67% — since we’ve begun to shelter in place on a wide scale in mid to late March,” the ARC said, adding that transit ridership has also taken a slide as many workers stay home or avoid public transportation.
The ARC said train ridership was down 77% at MARTA (Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority), which also saw a 45% drop in bus ridership.
In Cobb, public buses are limited to 10 riders at any time, with CobbLinc citing federal and state social distancing guidelines. Seats at the front of buses are blocked off to protect drivers, and passengers must enter and exit via rear doors only.
The ARC also reported a silver lining in the significant travel reductions, citing air quality data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
“The weekday average air quality index for ozone was 33 in March and 43 in April, compared to 45 and 52, respectively, in 2019,” the ARC reported.