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Waze Sees How Much South Floridians Are Driving During The Pandemic

Walter Michot
Miami Herald
Traffic is creeping back up but folks are driving less and shifting some of their patterns.

Our smartphones have noticed South Floridians are driving less during the Coronavirus pandemic.

Data from the navigation app, Waze, has been keeping track of how much less people are driving — and noticing that traffic is creeping back up.

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The GPS navigation app Waze found that earlier on in the pandemic, in April, as people were staying home, the miles driven per day in Miami and in Fort Lauderdale dropped by more than 80 percent.

Waze Percentage Change driven graph
This graph from Waze shows the percentage change of miles driven in South Florida during the pandemic.

Then the data look spike-y. In Miami Beach, at the end of July there were some days that traffic levels were back to what they were at the beginning of March, before the pandemic.

Though, we're not seeing quite the driving rebounds Paris or New York are seeing, traffic in Miami and Fort Lauderdale is about half of what it was on any given day in early August. The good news is the amount of traffic jams per day is still way down.

Waze Traffic Jam Change South Florida
This graph from Waze shows changes in traffic jams in South Florida during the pandemic

"The times of day that people are driving and the types of trips that people are taking are definitely shifting," Dani Simons said. She heads up Waze's public partnerships, including the one with Miami-Dade County.

"Which I think is no surprise as fewer people are commuting into a workplace but people are still continuing to have to go out to the grocery store. People are trying to go out, I think, just to get some fresh air and visit local parks … so we are still seeing those types of trips."

Before the pandemic, in February, Waze cited about 1.1 million people using the app every month to navigate around Miami and Fort Lauderdale.

Read More: Waze's Map Editors Are In Miami This Weekend: They're Brainstorming Better Traffic

As people start to get back on the road, and in addition to some of its COVID-19 specific initiatives to navigate people to testing sites and food distribution locations, Waze has been working with partners like Brightline Trains to show railroad crossing alerts in the app.

Screenshot of Waze's new railroad crossing alert feature
Screenshot of Waze's new railroad crossing alert feature

The new feature was born when the U.S. Senate, and US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recommended that all app-based navigation services add alerts to help try and reduce the number of drivers involved in railroad crossing deaths.

An Associated Press analysis at the end of last year found that Brightline has the worst per-mile death rate of the nation’s railroads, with some of those deaths involving cars.

"Now you get a nice little alert when you are about to approach a rail crossing on a route that's being offered to you in Waze," Simons said. "When you have sort of that chorus of agencies… telling you that they think this is a really important part of a safety tool-kit, I think you have to listen."

Caitie Muñoz, formerly Switalski, leads the WLRN Newsroom as Director of Daily News & Original Live Programming. Previously she reported on news and stories concerning quality of life in Broward County and its municipalities for WLRN News.
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