What do DOTs need to know in a world impacted by COVID-19?

Posted in: Bridges, Construction, Transportation

DOT transportation surveyCOVID-19 has necessitated workplace patterns and policies that may extend well into future, even once pre-COVID conditions have returned. These changes may impact how DOTs need to think about managing their transportation systems. What should state and local DOTs know about these shifts in patterns? Do they need to rethink how streets operate and how studies should be done?

Mead & Hunt recently conducted a nationwide travel survey to attempt to answer some of these questions. The results indicated a strong willingness to work remotely, and the potential for significant shifts in travel patterns and modes. While we don’t yet know for certain what the long-term impacts will be, the survey shows that the following changes are impacting our world as we know it.

Work Days

The survey showed that the majority of respondents plan to work less than 5 days per week in the office after we return to pre-COVID conditions. Additionally, many people do not plan on working Fridays. This brings up several key questions DOTs will want to consider:

  • Will Fridays more closely reflect weekday or weekend patterns? Or a whole different pattern completely?
  • How will these trends affect the following?
    • Travel patterns (i.e. typical weekday commuting patterns or more recreational weekend patterns?)
    • Bus and rail service patterns and frequency (i.e. should Fridays have a different service pattern from the rest of the week?)
    • Signal timing plans (i.e. are different time of day or daily signal plans needed?)
    • Dynamic lanes, reversible lanes, and turn restrictions (i.e. are these still needed on certain days of the week?)




Work Times

Many respondents indicated more flexibility in their daily work schedules after we return to pre-COVID conditions. This signals to DOTs the potential for a decrease in traditional peak hour volumes, as well as peak spreading over a longer period or throughout the day. DOTs may need to account for the increased flexibility by answering the following questions:

  • Will peak periods be different than the traditional 6-9 AM and 4-7 PM periods? Does this change the hours of operations for signal timing patterns, peak-hour turn restrictions, dynamic lane uses, and/or reversible lanes?
  • Will this impact analysis hours for traditional traffic impact analyses or corridor studies?
  • Should traffic data always be requested for the whole day, rather than peak-hour or peak-period only?
  • Should commuting patterns for transit be extended? Should transit frequency during the peak hour be decreased for increases at other times of the day?



Mode Choice

A majority of respondents indicated they would continue to use the same mode of transportation once pre-COVID conditions had returned. However, some respondents indicated they would shift from public transit to personal car, while others indicated they would shift from car to public transit or biking/walking/micro mobility options. These trends will need further monitoring to see how fear of crowding on public transit impacts mode choice. To combat public health concerns, particularly those associated with transit, DOTs may need to consider:

  • Increasing micro mobility (i.e. scooter, bike share, etc.) options
  • Reducing occupancy of transit vehicles, which may require increases in transit frequency
  • Expanding sidewalks or bike lanes for additional non-motorized uses

Moving Forward

Mead & Hunt is ready to help DOTs navigate these uncertain times. We are ready to provide support to help DOTs efficiently manage and modify their transportation systems. We will also continually monitor these changes in patterns with our talented data collection team and advanced “big data” sources. Whatever the future holds, we’re here to help.

Kyle Roberts

About the Author

Kyle Roberts has been active in the transportation planning and traffic engineering field for 10 years. As a Transportation Planning Project Manager, he has managed numerous on-call planning and engineering tasks for municipal, County, MPO and State transportation agencies. Kyle works on a wide range of projects, and strives to develop more complete streets for all modes of travel. In his spare time, you may find Kyle actively supporting the Baltimore sports teams (Ravens/Orioles) or fostering dogs.

Read more posts by Kyle Roberts

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