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Experts say it will take some time before traffic returns to pre-pandemic normal


CHICAGO (SCS) — A fascinating enigma in this pandemic world involves trafficking.

We learned that the after-work commute has become a nightmare again – but the morning commute, not so much.

But why is this? CBS 2’s Chris Tye hit the road to find out.

Normal. We tried to come back in so many ways. And on the roads? We have a long way to go.

CHRIST: “How close is Chicago to getting back to normal on the road?”

BOB: “I think it’s going to be long.”

Bob Pishue of INRIX Location Analytics studies traffic patterns.

“We’re looking at cities from San Francisco to Minneapolis to Chicago to Washington DC – and we’re seeing much the same thing, that the afternoon commute in many areas is back.

Afternoon — when commuters mingle with those heading to the grocery store or kids working out, it’s completely back, he says. Mornings — are not.

“It’s all about the morning commute. Chicago is still about 25% less than before COVID,” Pishue said.

Here’s a look at Chicago’s pre-pandemic traffic through this month shows that on January 30, 2020, weeks before the pandemic, Chicago’s roads were at 132% of normal throughput — three months later it dropped to 31%. At the start of this month, we were halfway between those two – 82%.

“And it’s been slow and steady coming back.”

On track – a similar story.

Metra sees 65% fewer passengers compared to the pre-pandemic period.

Their Rock Island added trains due to demand from essential workers using it.

In contrast: the SouthWest Service Line has seen more than half of its trains cleaned due to lack of demand.

The CTA has never cut train service. They say ridership remains down but were unable to provide numbers immediately.

Will normality return to Chicago traffic?

What we do know is that two things – new variants and new workflows – will be the forces that ultimately lead to this answer.

Roads farther from city centers have seen traffic return more quickly. Experts say that’s because factory jobs in rural and suburban areas lack the remote work options often offered to tech and IT jobs downtown.


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