Perhaps you saw the images after Covid hit. Goats taking over the streets of Whales. Antelopes casually roaming the roads of India. Monkeys flooding a square in Thailand. For a time, it seemed the animal kingdom might simply fill in the spaces where automobiles, and people, used to be. Drivers could at least take comfort in a shorter commute – or no commute at all.
Empty streets, it turned out, were short-lived. But over a year later, traffic is still not what it used to be. One silver lining of the pandemic is that it’s taken a lasting bite out of traffic throughout the US. With things still in flux, how lasting is it, and what’s to come next?
Fewer Miles Driven Overall
If you’re reading this, there’s a big chance you work from home. In a way, the pandemic only accelerated the work-from-home movement, the main reason lower traffic is sticking. Shutdowns, safety measures, and online shopping all translate to fewer cars being driven at once.
Consumer behavior also had a big impact on traffic, since many stores closed temporarily – and some permanently. The difference was the most extreme early on, and it’s clear that traffic had picked up somewhat by summer. But Americans still ended up driving 16.5 percent fewer miles in the first half of 2020 than during the same period in 2019.
Less Congestion, Depending on Where You Live
If you’re in a suburban or rural area, these changes may not seem so drastic. In cities, it’s another story, as urban traffic congestion went down across the globe due to economic slowdowns. But if you’re driving a lot less or questioning whether you even need a car, it could be because the pandemic’s impact on traffic has been more persistent here in the U.S. than anywhere else.
Drivers can still count on shorter commutes a year and a half after first hearing about Covid-19 – particularly in cities like Minneapolis, Nashville, and San Francisco that saw the biggest drop in congestion. And who doesn’t want to save gas, as well as time? Less congestion can have a positive impact on your personal finances, as well as your blood pressure. It means more minutes in the day for meeting with friends or taking in a movie and leaves you with more dollars to do just that.
Rush Hour Still Less Rushed
Rush hour was never anyone’s favorite time of day. If you’re hoping to keep your shorter commute, there is hope. Even after restrictions lifted and economies opened back up, congestion is still down, and it may never completely bounce back. But the picture is nuanced. Studies show that rush hour:
- Is more spread out
- Is later in the morning than before
- May increase after Labor Day
For many Americans, life is still getting back to normal, regardless of whether or how much they drive. It’s worth remembering that the pandemic isn’t over, and driving behavior may continue to shift as people react to the changes around them. Nevertheless, while no one can say for certain how long these new traffic patterns will last, they may not disappear any time soon. One recent study projects that traffic will eventually settle at 90 percent of pre-pandemic levels in the years to come.
Auto Registration and Upkeep Still Necessary
Mind you, none of these changes spell out the end of cars. Most adults own a car, and some car-dependent areas are growing. It’s important to remember that there are still many commitments that accompany car ownership, even if yours is spending more time in the garage lately.
Fortunately, if you live in Illinois, Indiana, or Wisconsin, many automobile license services can be taken care of at your local Community Financial Service Center, along with a host of other auto-related services, such as:
- Title transfers and new plates
- License plate renewals
- Plate transfers
- Lost or stolen plates or stickers
Even if your social life hasn’t been fully restored, financial convenience has been. You can renew your license while cashing a check, paying a bill electronically, loading up your prepaid debit card, and taking care of other transportation needs. Getting it all done in one place makes more sense than ever. In this day and age, why would anyone want to spend more time on the road and in lines than necessary?
Want to update your annual sticker or transfer a title to your name as fast as possible? Stop by one of the many CFSC locations to cover all your vehicle registration needs under one roof, or call 866.248.4947.
*Automobile license services only available in Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin.