Philadelphia Traffic Improved by 58 Percent in 2020, But the Chronic Congestion Is Just Around the Corner

Philadelphia traffic
Image via Martynas at Creative Commons.
Philadelphia traffic improved in 2020, data show, but the improved flow was attributable to the pandemic.

While traffic congestion remained high in the Philadelphia metropolitan area in 2020, year-over-year data analysis showed it had been more than halved, according to a staff report from the News Chant.

That’s the good news. The bad news is the reason for the improvement.

The recently published 2021 Urban Mobility Report ranked the City of Brotherly Love in 11th place in 2020 traffic snarls, compared with 15 of the nation’s largest cities.

Philadelphia drivers lost a total of 100,726 hours waiting in traffic, which amounts to 37 hours per commuter of sitting behind the wheel, going nowhere. The highest congestion timeframes were, unsurprisingly, Mondays through Fridays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.

These cost drivers in the region a total of $2,274 million, or $789 per driver.

However, it is still significantly lower than the previous year. Philadelphia recorded a 58 percent drop in delay levels in 2020 compared to 2019.

But like the hills of Manayunk or Conshohocken, that upside has a downside: The improvement resulted from drastically reduced volumes during the pandemic. Once the area’s health threat clears and commuting habits return, our rosy picture on the roads may not be rosy any longer.

“The underlying elements of traffic problems — too many car trips, too much rush-hour roadwork, crashes, stalled vehicles and weather issues — have not receded,” said Tim Lomax, one of the report’s authors.

Read more about Philadelphia traffic congestion in the News Chant.

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