Today in “Data” we want to dig deeper into what effect the partial rollbacks of economic reopenings have meant for Texas and Florida. Both states have recently curtailed businesses at bars, for example. That alone should not be enough to really crimp overall economic activity, but we wondered how much the local populations may take these new measures as a worrisome sign about public safety in general.
Let’s start with Orlando, Florida, using the TomTom traffic congestion charts we’ve relied on since the early days of the global COVID-19 outbreak. The solid red line is current congestion and the dotted red line is last week. If the former is below the latter, we assume overall economic activity is declining and if it is above then we assume the local citizenry is continuing to get back to “normal” (the blue line, which is the 2019 average congestion by day).
Here is the Orlando chart:
What we see:
- As one would expect, Friday and Saturday evening traffic was modestly lower since the bars were shuttered late on Thursday evening.
- Still, the data shows only a small decline: 14% congestion this Friday at 5pm, 17% a week ago. Saturday at 5pm showed 6% congestion versus 8% a week ago.
- It is hard to miss, however, the fact that Orlando is running less than half the traffic congestion as a year ago.
Now let’s move on to Jacksonville, the largest city in Florida. The story here is better than Orlando, with traffic congestion generally the same as last week with the exception of last Friday night. Also worth noting: weekend traffic (indicative of discretionary trips like shopping) is getting back to 2019 “normal” even as weekday (commutation) remains well below last year’s levels.
Here is the Jacksonville chart:
Now let’s move on to Houston, Texas, which is the fourth largest city in the US. Congestion was clearly lower on Friday afternoon and Saturday midday/afternoon but was actually heavier Monday (today) evening than the same periods last week. As with Orlando and Jacksonville, weekend traffic is generally more normal than weekday.
Finally, on to Dallas, where traffic this week looks to be only slightly below last week’s volumes and we see little impact from the state’s move to curtail the local nightlife.
The upshot to all this: we see little evidence in either Florida or Texas that well-publicized rising COVID case counts or partial reopening rollbacks have fundamentally altered the local populations’ day-to-day behaviors versus last week. Yes, there is still a large gap between normal weekday traffic. That is clearly corporate work-from-home protocols, which remain in place as companies determine how to keep their workers safe and adhere to new regulations. That part of workers’ lives will not be “normal” for some time, but what they do outside of work is looking more like their old routines than we would have thought before looking at this data.
TomTom traffic congestion data: https://www.tomtom.com/en_gb/traffic-index/