Daily trips across the country have taken a new form and may continue to be impacted for some time. Commutes and other regular travel may be happening for some, however people may be going into work less often, on off-peak schedules, or still even, not at all. Trips to parks and playgrounds at lunchtime may be more common and visits to the grocery store or other errands may happen less frequently. Or maybe, it can even feel like nothing has changed at all. This new reality has tremendous implications for the network of mobility options we use to get around, and thus on our daily lives.
The Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) has released a series of new tools that display some key measures of the trips happening in communities across the nation. Using anonymized cell-phone data from the Maryland Transportation Institute and Center for Advanced Transportation Technology Laboratory at the University of Maryland, we can see daily travel estimates at the national, state, and county levels. In some cases, the data set goes back to January of 2019 making it easy to compare to pre-pandemic travel patterns. The data is updated every Monday and only lags by a week, meaning this information is relevant to the issues we are facing now.
Several preset data views illustrate how trips have changed over time. In this instance, a trip is defined as “movements that include a stay of longer than 10 minutes at an anonymized location away from home. A movement with multiple stays of longer than 10 minutes before returning home is counted as multiple trips.” It is important to note, for example, that a trip running errands to multiple stores would be counted as multiple trips. This makes it even more crucial to look at the data from multiple angles to get the full picture.