ITE Journal - April 2021 - 33

Figures 2 and 3 depict two different time windows. Figure
2 shows the percent difference between observed and historical
volumes during the weekend interval (Friday to Sunday between
9:00 a.m.-9:00 p.m.). Figure 3 shows the difference in volume during
afternoon rush-hour (Monday to Friday 3:00-7:00 p.m.).
The graphs highlight the steep decline that culminated in the
greatest volume differences in April 2020. At the height of the
COVID-19 traffic volume drop, the difference ranged from 54 to
37 percent decline for afternoon rush-hour volumes on I-4. The
greatest decline in traffic volumes was during the weekend interval,
where traffic volume differences dropped from 68 to 56 percent. For
both the afternoon and weekend interval, Orange County (Orlando)
had the biggest decline, while Hillsborough County (Tampa) had
the lowest percentage decline in traffic volumes.
(Incidentally, the Florida Department of Transportation put the
lower traffic numbers to productive use by expediting construction
projects, including five ramps at the interchange of the new I-4
Ultimate and State Road 408 in Orlando.)
Between May and June, there was a significant rebound in traffic
volumes for both rush hour and weekend traffic. In Hillsborough
County, traffic along I-4 approached normal volumes. In Orange
County, traffic volumes also returned to more normal levels, but
traffic volume differences remained lower than the I-4 sites in the
other counties.
The rate of decline in traffic volumes decreased between June and
September after the sharp increase in volumes between April and June.
By July, Hillsborough County was seeing volumes on I-4 above the
five-year historical median. In late summer, both the rush-hour and
weekend volumes settled between 0 to 20 percent below median volumes.
Tourist activity, especially in Orange County, appears to have
contributed in part to the traffic volume rebound that followed
the state's phased re-opening and resorts returning to regular
operations, albeit with restrictions on the number of visitors
allowed in theme parks, resulting in traffic volumes that remain
slightly below the five-year historical median.

INRIX Travel Speeds
Travel speeds typically exhibit an inverse relationship with traffic
volume-i.e., as traffic decreases, speeds increase. In response to
decreased traffic volumes associated with COVID-19, this section
includes an analysis of travel speeds along I-4 in Orlando between
SR-429 and Florida's Turnpike from 5:00 p.m.-5:59 p.m. This stretch
of I-4 includes Universal Orlando and Disney, among many other
tourist attractions. The INRIX travel speed data was acquired
from the Regional Integrated Transportation Information System
(RITIS) at the University of Maryland.4
Daily Observations. Analyzing travel speeds by day provides a
direct observation of the effects of the COVID-19 timeline. Figure
4 shows that during the first half of March, observed travel speeds

along I-4 closely resembled those measured earlier in the year in
both directions of travel (east and west). On I-4 eastbound, the
slowest days were March 5 and March 10 with a speed of 41 miles
per hour (mph) (66 kilometers per hour [km/hr]). On I-4 westbound,
the slowest day was March 6 with a speed of 31 mph (50 km/hr).
As the decrease in traffic counts during the second half of
March would imply, travel speeds along I-4 increased to near
free-flow beginning on March 14 (two days before Universal and
Disney closed). Since then, the highest speed on I-4 eastbound was
75 mph (121 km/hr) on March 28, and on I-4 westbound it was 72
mph (116 km/hr) on March 29. Increased travel speeds were also
observed throughout the month of April and into May.
Beginning on May 22, the data indicated that travel speeds were
slowing down, at least on a few days. This trend continued through
November, with slower speeds occurring more frequently, particularly along the westbound side of I-4. However, these slower speeds
were still above those measured earlier in the year.
Although travel speeds were showing signs of slowing, August
7 was the slowest day since early March on the eastbound side, with
a speed of 48 mph (77 km/hr). On the westbound side, the slowest
day was September 4 with a speed of 31 mph. This was equal to the
slowest observed speed in March, which was 31 mph on March 6.
Monthly Observations. Summarizing travel speeds by month
is useful for observing the overall trend in speeds during 2020.
Because speeds in early March closely resembled those measured
earlier in the year, speeds during March are slower than during the
other months included in the study. For both directions of I-4, April
was the fastest month, followed by May (see Figure 4).
Since June, the general trend has seen either a slight decline in
travel speeds each month, or no change from the previous month.
On the eastbound side this trend continues, with the November
average speed equal to the March average of 60 mph (96 km/hr).
On the westbound side, the monthly average speed for November
dropped to 50 mph (80 km/hr), which is below the 55-mph (89 km/
hr) average speed observed for March.
Regarding tourism recovery, these are encouraging trends-and
although travel speeds along both directions of I-4 are declining in
general, they have not returned to the speeds observed in January
and February 2020.

Uber Movement Travel Times
This section presents an understanding of how travel times may
have been impacted by the pandemic by comparing Uber travel
times from the Orlando International Airport to the Orlando
tourist zones. Travel time data was acquired from Uber Movement
for January-March 2019 and January-March 2020.5 (Note: March
2020 is the latest available travel time data from Uber Movement.
Based on the COVID-19 timeline, the first half of March is
" pre-COVID-19, " and the second half is " post-COVID-19 " .)
w w w .i t e.or g

Apri l 2021

33


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ITE Journal - April 2021

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of ITE Journal - April 2021

ITE Journal - April 2021 - 1
ITE Journal - April 2021 - 2
ITE Journal - April 2021 - 3
ITE Journal - April 2021 - 4
ITE Journal - April 2021 - 5
ITE Journal - April 2021 - 6
ITE Journal - April 2021 - 7
ITE Journal - April 2021 - 8
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