Trip patterns also have changed markedly, based on a data tool provided by IDOT. The number of weekday trips by any travel mode has rebounded significantly since the pandemic began. Trips decreased by about 40 percent in April and May 2020 compared to February 2020.
The average distance of trips also decreased, going from an average of 5.9 miles in February 2020 to 4.6 miles in April 2020. Fewer commuters because of the pandemic likely caused trip lengths to decrease. Some employees began to work from home by April, and many others were furloughed or let go. As a result, more residents in northeastern Illinois stayed close to home. The share of trips under 2.5 miles went from 43 percent in March 2020 to almost 60 percent in May 2020.
Throughout the pandemic, the number of trips taken between 11:00 p.m. and 4:00 a.m. has remained relatively stable. 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. Data through April 2021 also show an increasing number of trips starting between 5:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.
Trip data also mirrors findings from a previous CMAP analysis that looked at essential workers in northeastern Illinois. Based on CMAP’s findings, essential workers disproportionately live in communities with low incomes and high concentrations of people of color. Since CMAP started tracking changes to transportation during the pandemic, the data has shown residents who live in areas with lower incomes take more trips than higher-income areas.
The data show the number of trips starting in census tracts where the median household income is 30 percent below the regional average has not declined as much as higher-income areas. 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.
But as trips continue to rebound through early 2021, the gap in travel between income groups has shrunk somewhat compared to the early weeks of Illinois’ stay-at-home order. It still 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.