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Covid-19 and mobility: Has traffic gone back to normal after the pandemic?

The Madrid City Council’s web portal has a large amount of mobility data that allows us to know the evolution of traffic in the Spanish capital and to analyse the impact of the pandemic caused by COVID-19, and specifically on how the rush hour has varied and whether traffic intensity has now fully recovered.

The Open Data Portal is a website that contains all the information from the traffic sensors of the city of Madrid in different formats, which are published monthly, and all the traffic gauges of the 60 permanent stations in the city of Madrid since January 2018.

Location of Madrid City Council’s traffic sensors
Location of permanent gauging stations
Traffic at Puerta de Alcalá in Madrid

The same is not true for the roads within the M-30 where the peak hour traffic intensity on an average working day in September is 9 points lower than in 2019.

To find out the impact of the pandemic caused by COVID-19 within the M-30, data from one of the permanent gauging stations located on one of the main backbones of the city of Madrid, Paseo de la Castellana, was analysed.

The ADT (average daily traffic) on Paseo de la Castellana on an average working day in September 2020, the year in which the pandemic began in Spain, was 25 points lower than the average for the same period in 2019. The mobility restrictions imposed as a result of the pandemic caused by COVID-19 meant that for a long period of time there was a large decrease in travel and, therefore, in the number of vehicles on the streets of Madrid.

Traffic Variation

As it can be seen in the graph, ADT values have been gradually restored, with an increase of 13.5% in 2021 and 1.3% in 2022. However, working from home and other restrictions mean that at present the ADT has not been restored to 100% traffic at “pre-COVID” values but is at 87%.

Another impact that the pandemic has had on traffic, is on the hourly distribution of traffic and hourly concentration.  In the data analysed for the month of September, a slight shift has been observed in the morning rush hour. Whereas in 2019, the maximum hourly concentration was between 7 and 9 a.m., in 2022 the maximum concentration is between 8 and 10 a.m.

Hourly distribution of traffic at Paseo de la Castellana

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