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How has the coronavirus pandemic affected traffic in Houston?

HOUSTON – Empty highways, quiet streets -- that’s what Houston-area roadways looked like in March and April. Traffic dropped dramatically as Houstonians stayed home to help flatten the curve. Now that businesses are reopening and people are returning to work, things are slowly changing.

Recently released data showed where things stood in Houston at the height of the stay-home orders. This research included street light information to measure travel patterns, revealing how much people were driving in each Houston-area county.

Nationwide, travel is still down nearly 50% compared to January, but those numbers are slowly picking back up.

The downward trend began in Houston around mid-March with traffic hitting its lowest point around April 5th. Overall, this is what the area experienced in terms of vehicle miles traveled:

  • Brazoria and Galveston counties saw a 78% decrease in traffic.
  • Harris and Montgomery counties took close to an 80% hit.
  • In Fort Bend County, traffic was down a stunning 90%.

In May, those numbers began to increase, showing Houstonians are getting back on the road.

On average, all counties mentioned saw 75% more drivers on the road in May when compared to January.

Across the country, traffic is up close to 60% since April 13, which was the low point for traffic nationwide.

Changes since January

The charts below show how traffic changed from the first week of January, which was before the pandemic started, to the first weeks of March, April and May.

Chart created by Ivana Escobar
Chart created by Ivana Escobar

The chart below shows how traffic changed in each county from March to mid-May when compared to January.

Chart created by Ivana Escobar
Chart created by Ivana Escobar

The chart below shows a weekly average of traffic for March, April and May when compared to January.

Chart created by Ivana Escobar
Chart created by Ivana Escobar