Return of rush hour? Traffic picks up on metro Detroit roads as people return to work

Posted at 4:37 AM, Jun 21, 2021

DETROIT — Even as we return back to a "new normal," life as we once knew it has changed. That includes changes in traffic patterns.

According to numbers for the Michigan Department of Transportation, traffic has picked up from a year ago when we were coming out of an intense quarantine.

One of the largest jumps in traffic was on The Lodge north of I-94.

Around 7,500 drivers used the M-10 around 4 p.m. last Tuesday, compared to just under 5,000 a year ago. You might notice something else here, more traffic in the afternoon than in the morning.

Not everyone is returning to the office. Some metro Detroit companies now offering positions either working from home or hybrid positions, working in the office only a few days a week.

“What this means for our roadways is we don’t have as much as much of the peaks that we’ve seen prior to 2020,” said Director of Planning from the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments, or SEMCOG, Kevin Vettraino.

Vettraino says these flexible work schedules mean fewer cars during the morning commute. There is now more traffic in the afternoons with fewer drivers taking the freeway.

“Fewer people are going to work, but that we are seeing increases in other activities,” said Vettraino.

Vettranio says preliminary data from Google Analytics and Apple shows more people are doing other activities during the day, like grocery shopping or going to the park. That means more traffic on local roads.

This could change infrastructure in the future, allowing for more lanes on some local roads. However, there are other issues facing our roads – speeding.

“That is the main problem, especially in Detroit, there are just cars coming in and out from anywhere and at a high rate of speed,” said metro Detroit driver Terrence Couch.

Along with a speeding problem, the pandemic has had people embracing cities with more walking space, social districts, and bike lanes. It’s going to be up to city leaders to figure out where they do want to alleviate congestion or keep it.

“With fewer cars on the road intuitively you assume there would be fewer crashes, which is definitely was we saw. We saw 25 percent fewer crashes on our roads, but we saw a 24 percent more fatalities compared to 2019. So, when we are talking about the way we build our roads, congestion, no one likes congestion, but it does slow down our traffic speeds,” said Vettraino.

SEMCOG is in the process of collecting data from their stakeholders to try and learn more about what the infrastructure of the future will look like.

They are planning on a public meeting in late October to share what they learn.