The Mid-Region Council of Governments (MRCOG) is the agency responsible for gathering traffic count data across Bernalillo, Sandoval, Valencia, Torrance and southern Santa Fe County. Typically, the agency takes three years to survey traffic at roughly 3,000 different areas.
However, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the stay-at-home order, the agency saw an opportunity to count a unique data set, particularly in Albuquerque-area roads, where thousands of drivers aren’t commuting as normal.
Instead of continuing on with their standard, planned traffic counting schedule, MRCOG has begun recounting some of the areas that were recently surveyed in 2019. The latest work is an effort to see how much traffic has changed during the stay-at-home order.
“Across the board, we’re seeing a reduction in traffic of anywhere from 40 to 60 percent,” said Nathan Masek, Senior Transportation Planner for MRCOG.
A preliminary memo shows MRCOG has gathered data from several different areas, including routes on the westside and near downtown Albuquerque.
In northwest Albuquerque, Unser Boulevard north of Dellyne Avenue has seen a dramatic reduction in the number of morning and evening commuters in what is a heavily residential area.
On Dellyne Avenue west of Coors Boulevard, that road has seen its morning rush hour commute significantly reduced. However, the mid-day traffic along Dellyne has increased while the evening rush-hour commute is still comparable to MRCOG’s 2019 volume.
One of the most dramatic shifts is on Coal Ave SW, west of Broadway Boulevard. According to MRCOG’s preliminary date, that road has virtually eliminated its morning and evening rush hour spikes, with data showing a volume of fewer than 100 cars an hour throughout nearly the entire day.
According to data from MRCOG, Lomas Boulevard east of Central Avenue hasn’t seen a more moderate reduction in traffic volume. However, the current pattern of roadway throughout the day mirrors 2019 traffic data, which evening rush hour use of Lomas being nearly the same.
“We saw this as a proactive opportunity to really capture what is going on with the transportation system, and how the travel demand is responding to this pandemic, we can use that information to help our agency to better manage the transportation system,” Masek said.
One of the biggest takeaways of MRCOG’s preliminary data can be inferred from mid-day traffic volume. While that traffic has remained nearly the same in many places in Albuquerque, the data is also an indication of how many people aren’t driving. Tens of thousands more drivers could be packing the streets as many people aren’t working in offices or taking kids to school during the pandemic.
NMDOT is compiling similar data showing traffic changes along highways and freeways. The agency has several areas were permanent traffic counters are installed.