As this workweek dawned and rush-hour Atlanta traffic appeared to be temporarily relieved of automobile congestion, it appeared there was a sort of silver lining to daily disruptions resulting from the novel coronavirus outbreak.
Exactly what that silver lining is, though, depends on whom you ask—and how you travel.
As Atlanta Department of Transportation commissioner Josh Rowan pointed out on Twitter, “Many drivers are using these reduced traffic volumes as a reason to speed.”
Georgia Department of Transportation spokeswoman Natalie Dale told Curbed Atlanta in an email, “We are seeing zero congestion during peak hours.”
That’s not an excuse for reckless driving, especially “at a time when our healthcare system is strained” by the spread of COVID-19, Rowan argues.
I fear many drivers are using these reduced traffic volumes as a reason to speed. At a time when our healthcare system is strained, please SLOW DOWN.— Commissioner ATL DOT (@CommishATLDOT) March 17, 2020
But Atlanta commuters aren’t just avoiding the highways during these uncertain times.
According to a report by Reporter Newspapers, MARTA ridership has taken a hit, too. (As would be expected with so many Atlantans working from home and businesses ceasing operations.)
During the first weekend of the pandemic, MARTA saw bus ridership dip about 10 to 20 percent and rail use drop 25 percent or more.
Rail ridership was down 47 percent this past Saturday, per the publication.
So, while it’s encouraging to get a glimpse at how Atlanta’s highways could be traversed if more people rethink how they work and travel, it’s also important to note that many Atlantans aren’t just avoiding the roadways; they’re actually staying home.
The silver lining, it seems, might just be that Atlantans are putting in the effort to heed the warnings of public health officials.