Trip-making patterns also have changed markedly, based on a data tool provided by IDOT that includes information collected from cell phones. The number of weekday trips by any mode of travel decreased by about 40 percent in April and May compared to February. The number has rebounded significantly since then.
The average distance of trips also decreased, down to 4.6 miles in April from an average of 5.9 miles in February. The decrease in trip length likely was the result of decline in commutes. Some employees began to work from home by April, and many others were furloughed or let go. More residents in northeastern Illinois also stayed close to home during the beginning of pandemic. The share of trips under 2.5 miles went from 43 percent in March to almost 60 percent in May.
Throughout the pandemic, the number of trips taken between 11:00 p.m. and 4:00 a.m. has remained almost unchanged. Many employers considered essential, such as health care, food manufacturing, and transportation, rely on shift workers. The steady number of overnight trips likely reflects an identifying characteristic of essential workers — the late-night commute.
Previous CMAP analysis looked at 12 broad occupations of essential workers in northeastern Illinois. We found essential workers disproportionately live in communities with low incomes and high concentrations of people of color.
Trip data mirrors these findings. The number of trips starting in census tracts where the median household income is 30 percent below that of the region have not declined as much as higher-income tracts. These trends reflect the options many residents with higher incomes have during the pandemic, from being able to work remotely to shopping online for supplies.
As trips continue to rebound, the gap in travel between income groups has shrunk somewhat compared to the early weeks of Illinois’ stay-at-home order. But it has not fully reverted to pre-crisis conditions. These data show the effect of increased mitigation measures enacted to address a surge in COVID-19 cases at the end of 2020.