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Tulsa Saw Steep Declines in Vehicle Traffic During April Peak of COVID-19 Pandemic

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Tulsa saw significant decreases in vehicle miles traveled during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

INCOG Transportation Modeling Coordinator Nimish Dharmadhikari said on the south leg of the Inner Dispersal Loop, vehicle miles traveled between April 1 and April 15 were down 57% from the same period last year, and some areas of the city had steeper declines.

"Arts District experienced around 77% reduction in volume, whereas Brookside experienced about 69% reduction in volume," Dharmadhikari said.

INCOG Transportation Planning Director Viplav Putta said the decreases are enough to throw off average annual daily traffic figures, something that can affect projects if engineers and planners aren’t aware.

"In 2020 AADT, these numbers will show up in those. So, it’s good to have comparison, but at the same time, if you’re doing designs based on this year’s AADT, I’d be a little bit more careful," Putta said.

INCOG used traffic analytics firm StreetLight Data to look at the decrease in travel. Traffic on the north and west legs of the IDL didn’t drop off much. Truck traffic did not have a big decrease because companies still had freight to move.

The data also showed the reduction in travel started before Mayor G.T. Bynum issued his "safer at home" order, and rural areas saw smaller drop offs and have already essentially returned to normal.

Matt Trotter joined KWGS as a reporter in 2013. Before coming to Public Radio Tulsa, he was the investigative producer at KJRH. His freelance work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times and on MSNBC and CNN.
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