March 26, 2020

Dear Coronavirus: What Have You Done to my Commute?

Dear COVID-19,

We didn’t think it would happen like this. We knew you were coming, but you have stolen the normalcy from our everyday lives. As a precaution, we let you take our events, our favorite restaurants, and even our toilet paper. And now you’ve taken our traffic. We were already trying to fix it, and we’re convinced a better way is still out there. While we’re relieved to know there are less crashes on the road, we hate to attribute it to you. 

Coronavirus, we’re going to beat you. People are staying home, washing hands, and keeping a safe distance from one another. Our commutes have been reduced to walking from our kitchen to our living room. We’re doing our part to flatten the curve because we know what comes next; our schools, businesses, and offices will eventually reopen. The world will no longer be on pause. People will trickle out of their homes and go about their lives with a renewed sense of freedom and purpose. We will shake hands at work and embrace our loved ones at home. And finally, it will be humans that ease the flow of traffic and boost traffic safety, not a virus.

Traffic flow in the age of coronavirus

Source:  Industry News, News, Smart Mobility, Traffic, USA:  INRIX U.S. National Traffic Volume Synopsis: Issue #1 (March 14-20, 2020).  Posted March 23, 2020 / By Rick Schuman

Akin to tiny apartments and dirty sidewalks, traffic is a hallmark of city life. However, traffic is down 51% in San Francisco, 43% in New York, and 30% nationwide. For major cities, the sight of cars packing the streets and herds of pedestrians shuffling along is little more than a distant dream. As businesses grind to a halt, we gain a new respect for the crucial role of mobility.  Our economy, we realize, runs on wheels. 

Oh, and Coronavirus, one more thing.  We hate you fiercely, but you have humbled humanity at a time when it felt like our innovations made us invincible. You have neither an agenda nor a brain, yet you reduced our traffic by half. Times like these provide a stark reminder of the fragility of our highly interconnected society. 

Fears about public health and the economy lead many to ask, “What is the bright side to all this?” Well, some of us suddenly have a great deal of time on our hands. And idle time, along with pressure, desperation, crisis, leads to ideas. There will be a strong outpouring of creative solutions to deal with the situation, to deal with the virus, to deal with mobility – and to make life better, in general.  We’ve already seen a great deal of creativity, for instance in teaching our children and students online. After all, there are no rainbows without rain. 

Let’s all of us, every single person, think of ideas that can make us all smarter, healthier, wiser, and happier.  And then, make them happen.

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