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SCAG Report Shows Significant Drop In Travel During Early Months Of COVID

A new report released by the Southern California Association of Governments, or SCAG, shows that one of the nation’s most congested metropolitan areas has seen a significant decline in travel due to the coronavirus pandemic. As KVCR’s Benjamin Purper reports, the report shows troubling patterns emerging as the economy re-opens.

The SCAG study analyzed roadway, rail and air traffic in the six-county Southern California region during the early months of the pandemic.

They found the vehicle-miles traveled (VMT) fell by nearly 80% in April from January 2020. VMT Gradually increased beginning in April as more public spaces reopened, and VMT is now nearing pre-pandemic levels.

As for transit, there were sharp drops in bus ridership, LA Metro, and Metrolink.

Air travel suffered immediate impacts – it was down 65% year-over-year in March and 95% in April.

Freight traffic experienced mixed results. The San Pedro Bay Port saw double-digit declines in containerized cargo, while Ontario International Airport has experienced consistent 20%-plus increases in air cargo traffic due to increased online shopping.

Kome Ajise is SCAG’s Executive Director.

“At this point," Ajise says, "I think we're seeing traffic come back to near pre-pandemic levels in the Inland Empire, so the bounce back has been quicker in the Inland Empire. The decline in transit, I think it's still, I think we're between 65% and 75% percent of what we used to be in transit, because a lot of cities have taken transit precautions, social distancing, and so we're seeing ridership come back."

"I think the implication for the transit, and this is the one of the worry, there's been a lot of resources to carry fewer people who actually have to ride transit because they might not have any choice. So the transit agencies, they need assistance, and that's one of the areas we're working on is how do assist and provide aid to transit agencies through this period that we're still dealing with the virus and keep them surviving through that from when things go back to normal, Ajise says. 

SCAG says it will continue to monitor the data for travel trends in Southern California.