Quantifying the Traffic Impacts of the COVID-19 Shutdown

Zixuan Liu, Raphael Stern

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has significantly disrupted transportation and travel patterns across the US and around the world. A significant driving factor in the significant reduction in travel in the US was the declaration of varying state-, county-, and city-level stay-at-home orders with varying degrees of reduction. However, it is still not clear how significantly any one of those orders contributed to the reduction in travel. This article looks at continuous count data from the Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota, area to quantify the disruption in terms of reductions in traffic volume as well as the abnormality of the disruption to travel patterns. A nearly 50% reduction in total traffic volume is found, and regional trends both in reductions and the gradual recovery toward normal travel patterns are identified. Furthermore, key dates are identified that led to significant reductions in travel, and this disruptive event is compared with other significantly disruptive events in Minnesota for context. It is found that although the stay-at-home order was a significant milestone in the fight against COVID-19, traffic volumes had already reduced significantly before the order went into effect, and traffic volumes had recovered significantly before the order expired. These findings will be helpful in understand the impact of stay-at-home orders on future outbreaks of COVID-19 or other pandemics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number04021014
JournalJournal of Transportation Engineering Part A: Systems
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2021

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© 2021 American Society of Civil Engineers.


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