Traffic and Pollution Plummet as U.S. Cities Shut Down for CoronavirusThe best Traffic Sources and Tools for Affiliate Marketing 2020

In cities across the United States, traffic on roads and highways has fallen dramatically over the past week as the coronavirus outbreak forces people to stay at home and everyday life grinds to a halt.

Pollution has dropped too.

A satellite that detects emissions in the atmosphere linked to cars and trucks shows huge declines in pollution over major metropolitan areas, including Los Angeles, Seattle, New York, Chicago and Atlanta.

Los Angeles

In Los Angeles, as businesses and schools have closed this month and drivers have stayed off the roads, air pollution has declined and traffic jams have all but vanished.

Preliminary data from the European Space Agency’s Sentinel-5P satellite show that atmospheric levels of nitrogen dioxide, which are influenced in large part by car and truck emissions, were considerably lower over Los Angeles in the first two weeks of March compared to the same period last year. The car-dependent city normally features some of the highest smog levels in the country.

The 110 toward central Los Angeles on Friday afternoon, a time when traffic would normally be bumper-to-bumper.Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

Los Angeles’s famous rush-hour congestion has virtually disappeared. On Wednesday at 8 a.m., traffic in the city was moving 53 percent faster than it usually does on a Wednesday morning, according to data from INRIX, a company that analyzes traffic data from vehicle and phone navigation systems. At 5 p.m., when the freeways are typically congested, traffic was moving 71 percent faster than usual.

“There’s basically no rush hour anymore, or at least not what we would recognize as a rush hour,” said Trevor Reed, a transportation analyst at INRIX. He said that traffic has decreased even more sharply in the evening because that’s when people are normally running errands in addition to commuting home, but many of those activities have now been put on hold.

Traffic speeds along Interstate 110 in Los Angeles were much faster than usual

Normal Wednesdays, Jan. to Feb. 2020

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Usually, speeds dip during morning rush hour …

… and again in

the evening.

Traffic speeds along Interstate 110 in Los Angeles were much faster than usual

Normal Wednesdays, Jan. to Feb. 2020

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Usually, speeds dip during morning rush hour …

… and again in

the evening.

Speeds for north/east-bound traffic along I-110. Source: INRIX

Similar changes can be seen in the Bay Area, where local officials on Monday ordered the region’s 6.7 million residents to shelter in place. Since then, the number of cars and trucks crossing eastbound on the Bay Bridge each day between San Francisco and Oakland has fallen roughly 40 percent compared with two weeks ago, according to data from monitoring stations operated by the California Department of Transportation.

While that’s a sign that people are heeding the advice of public health experts, it’s yet another warning that the nation’s economy is facing serious peril. Traffic and congestion, while often a source of annoyance, are also a telltale sign of bustling economic activity. On Thursday, Gov. Gavin Newsom of California extended the shelter in place order to cover the entire state.

The satellite emissions data was analyzed for The New York Times by Descartes Labs, a geospatial analysis group. Nitrogen dioxide levels can also fluctuate with weather conditions, and experts said quantifying the precise effects of the shutdown on such pollution will take further study.

Seattle

Air pollution from vehicles has likewise plummeted in the Seattle area, which had one of the earliest recognized coronavirus outbreaks in the country. Traffic patterns there…

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