WSDOT traffic data shows tens of thousands staying off the roadways

SPOKANE, Wash. — New data from the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) shows just how many less people are on the roadways in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Many people have shared photos of empty Spokane streets and blocks that now look like a ghost town—visual reminders of how much everything has changed.

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WSDOT is still tracking the numbers, which now show a massive decrease in traffic activity on all major streets and freeways; in some cases, as much as a 60 percent drop-off.

According to a spreadsheet of the traffic totals, once Governor Inslee’s stay-home order was issued, cars practically vanished—on March 24, the day after the order, traffic was down 25 percent compared to normal.

The regional daily volume baseline is the typical number of cars on the roads every day for the month of February. For weekdays, that number is 344,853, and on weekends it is 260,409.

Becky Spangle, WSDOT’s traffic center manager in eastern Washington, said this is tracked by radar they have on the highway.

They then compare those numbers to last month’s data.

“February was pretty normalized without any major weather events or incidents. It just ended up being a good baseline to use,” Spangle said.

In the days following the stay-home order, traffic fell off 34 percent from that baseline, then 35 percent the next day, then 36 and 37. By March 28, only 137,206 cars were reported on the roadways, a nearly 50-percent decrease compared to normal.

WSDOT recorded the largest fall-off on Sunday, where traffic was 57 percent less than the baseline—one that is already less on weekends—with just over 100,000 cars reported.

The spreadsheet includes high-activity or noteworthy areas. I-90 saw as few as 17,173 drivers at US-2 West, 21,407 drivers near Sprague and 56,687 drivers at Pines.

So, what does this all mean?

“It really shows the people adhering to the Governor’s order and that’s what we want to see, that’s what the governor wants to see. He wants to see less people on the roads,” Spangle said.