Latest travel data show why induced demand remains just a theory

Our usually gridlocked highways are unrecognizable today. The COVID-19 outbreak and quarantine have left them eerily vacant. On the one hand, they are now the roads we’ve all been dreaming about while sitting in stop-and-go traffic on our way to work. On the other hand, these empty roads are a reminder of the people we cannot visit, the places we cannot take our children to, and the jobs that have been changed or lost.

As of March 27, the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) reports traffic volumes have been cut in half or more across the Puget Sound region.

For the week of March 16, the morning commute on I-405 through Bellevue, compared to February data, saw traffic volumes drop by 35 percent. Traffic volumes declined by 45 percent on I-90, and by 60 percent on State Route 520.

After the Governor issued a shelter-in-place order on March 23, traffic volumes plummeted even further. On I-405, traffic volumes dropped by 65 percent, on I-90 by 65 percent, and on State Route 520 by a remarkable 77 percent. Traffic on I-5 in Everett declined by 56 percent.