SoCal's traffic moving closer to pre-coronavirus levels

Traffic may not be horrible these days, but as more people head back to work, you might start to notice more backups than you did a couple months ago.
SANTA ANA, Calif. (KABC) -- Traffic may not be horrible these days, but as more people head back to work, you might start to notice more backups than you did a couple months ago.

"Traffic is picking up, which means there's starting to be more traffic collisions, but it's not back to the way it was prior to the COVID-19," said California Highway Patrol Officer Florentino Olivera, with the department's Santa Ana office.

In Orange County, the CHP office saw a drastic decline in traffic when the shutdowns and stay-at-home orders first started. Less cars on the road meant more speeding tickets.

"One day we had a speed enforcement in which we wrote over 100 tickets, and almost every ticket was over 100 mph," Olivera said.

Now that traffic is picking back up, it's shifting back to the typical rear-enders, side swipe collisions, and DUIs. The Orange County Transportation Authority is also noticing an uptick in traffic, with evidence in its bus ridership.

"Pre-pandemic and the stay-at-home orders, we were averaging 125,000 riders per day. At the height of the pandemic and the stay-at-home orders, our ridership dropped down to about 25,000 per day," said Orange County Transportation Authority Deputy CEO Jennifer Bergener.

Now, it's more than doubled to about 55,000 riders per day. When traffic was light, the OCTA was able to advance construction projects like the widening of the 405 Freeway.

"We worked closely with Caltrans and the contractor to be able to implement expanded work hours in the evenings or daytime closures as well," Bergener said.

An increase in traffic has forced them to go back to normal construction hours. It's a similar situation for Caltrans in L.A. and Ventura counties, with traffic running near capacity.

"We're seeing an uptick in traffic, although it's still below normal levels," said Jim Medina with Caltrans District Seven.

For L.A. and Ventura counties, in early April, the total vehicle miles traveled was down 37% from March 1. At the end of June, it was down just 14%. In early April, traffic backups were down 80.5%. Now backups are down 58%. The rush hour speed on Fridays was 40 mph in early March, rising to 58 mph in early April, and dropping back down to 45 mph at the end of June.

"Your normal commuter corridors is usually where you're going to see the increased traffic numbers," Medina said.
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