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The novel coronavirus will strap us with many problems; Traffic gridlock is likely not one.

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(David McNew/Getty Images)

HOUSTON – Schools are canceled. People are working from home. Some people are not working at all. Sports are on hiatus. The rodeo is off. Concerts are cancelled. Life as we knew it just a week ago has changed drastically.

The realization that the novel coronavirus is quickly gaining a foothold on the Houston area has prompted swift and severe defensive action. For many, that action comes with problems like finding child care for kids out of school, finding toilet paper at the store, and simply finding peace of mind in these turbulent times.

In the midst of the turmoil there might be a small, but significant, bright spot for Metro Houston residents. Rush hour traffic could be smoother than it has been in years!

On any given day in Houston, rush hour can be a nightmare. Accidents, bad weather, and the sheer swarm of cars on the road can all increase commute times to well over an hour, and sometimes two! Here is an example of a headache-ridden morning commute, depicted by the abundantly red and yellow inbound “traffic wheel” on the What’s Driving Houston page at Click2Houston.com:

Drive times on a heavily-snarled morning commute in Houston.
Drive times on a heavily-snarled morning commute in Houston.

In a matter of days, social distancing has forced us into our homes and off the streets, and that could have a huge impact on traffic. Don’t be surprised to see a large percentage of cars NOT on the freeway each weekday from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. and again from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. For those of us who can’t work from home and have to head into the office, that means our commutes could be a breeze. The “traffic wheel” could likely show green, delay-free conditions across the board.

Delay-free inbound commute times in Houston during non-peak hours.  With social distancing efforts in place, these could become the normal rush-hour drive times, too!
Delay-free inbound commute times in Houston during non-peak hours. With social distancing efforts in place, these could become the normal rush-hour drive times, too!

Right now school closings and work-from-home orders are short-term measures to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus. Nobody knows, however, how long these “short-term” measures will be in place. Weeks? Months? Only time will tell.

No doubt, we all would rather put up with gridlock traffic conditions in Houston than deal with a frightening, stress-inducing viral pandemic. But until we’re looking at the virus in our rear-view mirror with the pandemic is behind us, we might as well appreciate one of the few, small positive things to come out of it -- less gridlock!


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