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HRTPO Releases Updated Analysis of COVID-19’s Impact on Regional Transportation

HRTPO Releases Updated Analysis of COVID-19’s Impact on Regional Transportation

HRTPO has recently released the 2020 version of the State of Transportation in Hampton Roads report.  The State of Transportation report details the current status and recent trends for all facets of the transportation system in Hampton Roads, including air, rail, water, and highways.  Many aspects of the highway system are highlighted, including roadway usage, pavement condition, bridge condition, congestion levels, commuting characteristics, roadway safety, transit usage, tolling, and active transportation (such as biking and walking). 

The State of Transportation 2020 Update also includes an analysis of the impacts of COVID-19 on the regional transportation system.  A sampling of this analysis is shown below:Line Graph Depicting Passenger Boarding at Hampton Roads Airports, 2019 & 2020

  • Air Travel – Very few aspects of the economy have been impacted more by the COVID-19 pandemic than the airline industry.  The number of passengers using the two commercial service airports in Hampton Roads – Norfolk International Airport and Newport News-Williamsburg International Airport – began to sharply decrease in March.  By April, the number of passengers boarding planes in Hampton Roads was 94% below the level seen in April 2019.  The number of passengers increased throughout the late spring and summer but October passenger levels were still 56% below the level seen in October 2019.

    Line Graph Depicting Weekly Average Volumes At Continuous Count Station Locations, 2019 & 2020
  • Roadway Travel – Roadway travel levels in Hampton Roads were greatly impacted during the height of the COVID-19 shutdowns, but have returned closer to the levels seen prior to the pandemic.  Roadway travel in Hampton Roads began to decrease in March and these decreases continued into April, reaching a 39% decrease compared to April 2019.  Throughout the late spring and summer months roadway travel increased in Hampton Roads, and by October roadway volumes in 2020 were only down 10% from the year before.

Line Graph Depicting Weekly Volumes At Continuous Count Station Locations, 7-8AM, 2019 & 2020While total roadway travel levels have returned close to pre-pandemic levels in Hampton Roads, morning peak hour volumes have remained well below pre-pandemic levels.  Similar to daily volumes, AM Peak Hour (7-8 am) volumes decreased in March and April, reaching a 42% decrease compared to April 2019.  Throughout the late spring and summer months AM Peak Hour roadway travel slowly increased in Hampton Roads, but by October AM Peak Hour roadway volumes remained 19% lower than the year before.  This is much larger than the 10% decrease seen in daily volumes in the region.

Line Graph Depicting Weekly Volumes At Continuous Count Station Locations, 4-5PM, 2019 & 2020By comparison, PM Peak Hour (4-5 pm) volumes have returned much closer to pre-pandemic levels.  PM Peak Hour volumes decreased in March and April, reaching a 37% decrease compared to April 2019.  Throughout the late spring and summer months PM Peak Hour roadway travel increased in Hampton Roads, reaching within 10% of pre-pandemic levels by June.  In October, PM Peak Hour roadway volumes were only 8% lower than the roadway volumes seen in October 2019.

Line Graph Depicting Monthly Fatalities in Hampton Roads, 2019 and 2020

  • Roadway Safety - While roadway safety improved during the height of the COVID-19 shutdowns, in recent months the number of crashes, injuries, and fatalities has surpassed the number seen in 2019.  The number of fatalities has increased both in Hampton Roads and throughout the country in spite of lower roadway travel levels.  Fatalities decreased in March as the pandemic shutdowns began but throughout late spring and the summer months fatalities increased in Hampton Roads.  By September, there were 16 fatalities in Hampton Roads, up 78% from the 9 fatalities experienced in September 2019.

    Line Graph Depicting Monthly Change in Virginia Capital Trail Users, 2019 to 2020
  • Active Transportation – With people spending more time outdoors and practicing social distancing, it isn’t a surprise that the amount of walking and bicycling has increased during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Trail usage levels are collected on a number of multi-use paths in the area, including the Virginia Capital Trail in James City County.  According to the Virginia Statewide Bicycle and Pedestrian Count Network, bicycle and pedestrian usage of the Virginia Capital Trail increased from approximately 12,300 users per month in April – July 2019 up to an average of 20,800 users per month in April – July 2020, a 69% increase.  In addition, the data indicates the number of trail users in November 2020 (15,766) was 141% above the levels seen in November 2019 (6,530).

HRTPO staff’s analysis not only looked at the impacts of COVID-19 on various aspects of the Hampton Roads transportation system but also compared these impacts to those at the national level.  Changes from 2019 to 2020 at the height of the pandemic and in the most recent data available for both Hampton Roads and nationally are shown in the table below.

Table Comparing COVID Impacts in Hampton Roads to the National Impacts

Cover of the State of Transportation in Hampton Roads 2020The State of Transportation in Hampton Roads 2020 report can be accessed by clicking on the following link:

State of Transportation in Hampton Roads 2020 Report

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