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Lonely road: global traffic slumps

Road traffic in major cities is one of many real-time barometers of economic activity seen around the world. Whole economic indicators are built around the concept in some countries.

Thanks to the devastating health and economic impacts of the COVID-19 crisis, roads in major cities globally currently have a distinctly deserted look - whether the city is already experiencing restrictions or bracing for them.

Lockdowns, movement restrictions and voluntary social distancing are becoming commonplace across the world.

Below is a chart noting peak-time road traffic across select major cities. As you can see, almost all key global centres are in decline.

To give those numbers context, a 30 per cent congestion level in Australia, for example, means that a 30-minute trip takes 30 per cent more time than it would during baseline uncongested conditions.

The data we show in the chart is the peak-time congestion level at a point in time, ‘minus’ the corresponding average per cent congestion level in 2019. This should tell us if we are seeing more or less congestion relative to the 2019.

The road traffic congestion data is from The TomTom Traffic Index. That index has been developed using anonymised data from millions of drivers who use TomTom tech in navigation devices, in-dash systems and smartphones around the world.

The data show in Australia and NZ, where social distancing measures are in full effect, traffic congestion levels continue to fall.

Elsewhere, road traffic in China is inching back to normalcy, even as traffic in rest of Asia is still easing.

Arun Navaratna is a Senior Economist and Richard Yetsenga is Chief Economist at ANZ

This story is an edited version of an ANZ Research note. You can read the original note HERE.

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