COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Outbreak – Metro Area Travel Declines

Traffic data show more metro area residents are staying home

A Metropolitan Council analysis of more than 1,000 freeway traffic monitoring stations across the metropolitan area and beyond show that Minnesotans are doing their part to limit the spread of COVID-19 by reducing travel and staying home.

Researchers at the Metropolitan Council are using traffic data from the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) to evaluate the impact of recent physical distancing efforts on regional and statewide travel. Using a modeling approach that relies on historical traffic data to estimate typical travel, Met Council researchers have shown that travel across the region's freeways has declined by more than 70% in the weeks following the first COVID-19 case in Minnesota, on March 6, 2020.

Travel decreased steadily in the days following the first COVID-19 case in Minnesota


This graph shows the daily relative decrease in travel since March 1 across the Twin Cities metro area's freeways, in comparison to statewide traffic volumes. Points that fall below the zero-line represent decreases in travel relative to typical travel on that day of the year and day of the week. Typical travel is estimated using a statistical analysis of traffic volumes from 2018, 2019, and 2020 prior to March 1. MnDOT collects data on roads and freeways from automated traffic recorder stations across the state. View an interactive application of this data. For data in tabular format, please contact public.info@metc.state.mn.us.

State actions appear in travel data

Travel decreased over time as state officials took action to support physical distancing efforts. For example, after Gov. Tim Walz asked Minnesotans to cancel all large gatherings and limit restaurants to takeout on March 18, travel decreased by an additional 7% over what had already been a 35% decrease from typical. Travel increased slightly on Friday, March 20, perhaps in anticipation of additional statewide travel restrictions.

These data are helping inform statewide models of disease transmission, and helping policymakers evaluate the impact of their actions on physical distancing efforts.

Ongoing analysis

Researchers at the Met Council will continue to update these figures as additional restrictions go into effect, and as restrictions are lifted. Future research at the Council aims to understand the impact of physical distancing efforts on other types of travel, especially pedestrian and bike travel. Researchers also hope to study other aspects of travel behavior including the travel that Minnesotans do in service to others in their household, family or community.

Contact

Ashley Asmus
Metropolitan Council
ashley.asmus@metc.state.mn.us