REDUCING CONGESTION POST-COVID-19 THROUGH TELECOMMUTING AND HOV LANES
UGWU, NNEOMA maxine
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The historic low traffic during the COVID-19 pandemic reignited interest in telecommuting as a low-cost effective Travel Demand Management (TDM) strategy. Telecommuting, introduced as a TDM in 1970, has been studied extensively but there has never been an opportunity of this magnitude to investigate its potential. As the percentage of teleworkers increased from five percent to over 50 percent in 2020, commuter traffic in the D.C.-Maryland-Virginia region was almost non-existent. We argue that increased telecommuting played a significant role in the traffic reduction during the pandemic, and that continued sustainable and equitable telecommuting coupled with implementing more High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes could significantly remove traffic bottlenecks. This study uses mobility data from the University of Maryland COVID-19 platform and traffic data from the Maryland Department of Transportation to specify a regression model that estimates roadway performance in hypothetical telecommuting and HOV scenarios. The investigation showed that the reduced work-related trips were a major cause of the congestion reduction in 2020. With only 20 percent more of the population telecommuting than in 2019, there was a significant improvement in roadway congestion on almost all major roadways. We propose two low-cost sustainable transportation strategies to maintain the reduced congestion post-COVID-19: promoting telecommuting and implementing HOV lanes. Policies through which the government and employers can support telecommuting are also recommended.