News & Politics

DC Traffic Congestion Has Fallen More Than Any Major World City During the Pandemic

77 percent fewer cars on the road saved local drivers an average of $1,400.

Downtown in April 2020. Photograph by Elan Irving/iStock.

As the covid crisis reshaped the way we live and work, Washington, DC experienced the biggest annual drop in traffic congestion of any major city in the world.

That’s according to the latest annual report from the transportation analytics firm INRIX, which found that traffic congestion in DC fell by 77 percent in 2020 from the previous year. 

Thanks to the pullback in driving, Washington fell from the 5th to the 12th most congested city in the United States. The lighter traffic offered benefits to the health and finances of the region’s citizens. The city experienced 26 percent fewer traffic collisions in 2020 than it had the prior year, and the less time spent in traffic jams led to an average savings of more than $1,400 for local drivers, according to INRIX.

On average, DC drivers lost 29 hours to traffic congestion in 2020, compared to 100 hours lost in New York and 94 hours lost in Philadelphia. 

Driving trips to the city’s downtown districts fell especially steeply. This past February, according to INRIX, drivers made 60 percent fewer trips to downtown DC than they had the prior year. 

DC’s precipitous drop in traffic congestion is likely tied to the large number of highly educated professionals in the region who can perform their jobs remotely. Of critical significance to the city is what percentage of these workers will head back to the office once the pandemic is behind us. A broader structural shift away from office working and towards remote working would trigger seismic changes to the local economy. 

Senior Writer

Luke Mullins is a senior writer at Washingtonian magazine focusing on the people and institutions that control the city’s levers of power. He has written about the Koch Brothers’ attempt to take over The Cato Institute, David Gregory’s ouster as moderator of NBC’s Meet the Press, the collapse of Washington’s Metro system, and the conflict that split apart the founders of Politico.