15. 6. 2020

How has COVID-19 affected traffic in Prague?

The restrictive measures introduced by the government of the Czech Republic due to the COVID-19 coronavirus have understandably had a considerable impact on traffic in Prague as well. Its volume fell by as much as 50%. In reaction to the declared state of emergency, TSK began analysing the influence of government measures and the resulting situation on individual modes of transport in the capital. The comparison comprises fifteen locations equipped with telematics equipment that provides data. The values were compared against the period before the state of emergency was declared, specifically with the seventh calendar week of this year (see the table of calendar weeks below).

Clear roads through the city?

The volume of individual (automobile) transport fell drastically immediately following the announcement of the ban on free movement of persons in week 12. The drop was 35% in the centre, 29% in the outer zone compared to the pre-restriction state. Over the course of the following, i.e. thirteenth week, the state of traffic remained nearly unchanged. In week 14 there was slight growth, more noticeable starting in week 15, and this continued to gradually increase thereafter as well. The centre saw only one quarter less traffic and the outer zone one fifth less than normally.

“Don’t touch the buttons…”

Due to the COVID-19 virus we did not go out without a mask and usually didn’t shake hands. Another risk was possible transmission from touching controls, thus during quarantine the buttons for opening public transport doors and at pedestrian lights were not used. The turning off of pedestrian traffic light buttons meant that despite the decline in automobile traffic volume, during the 12th to 17th week there were occasional delays, though nothing critical. At red lights cars waited for pedestrians, of which there were understandably very few in the centre of Prague. Given the volume of traffic, the turning off of pedestrian buttons certainly did not cause problems – this situation more concerned four-lane divided roads with a median or tram track, where the pedestrian crossings are 25 m wide. The red light shines longer on them, because pedestrians should be able to get halfway across with a green light.

Transport in the Blanka tunnel complex

Traffic volume fell in Blanka following the introduction of restrictive measures as well. In mid-March they reached a level of one third compared to the period before the measures were put in place. Since then it gradually grew again in correlation with the traffic volume in other parts of Prague. At the start of May it had already approached pre-restriction levels.

And what about cyclists?

Data on bicycle traffic in various parts of the city are provided by 25 automated counters. The number of bicycle rides is affected by weather, and even though government restrictions were in place in the spring, the weather tended to smile on cyclists, and in a year-on-year comparison there was growth of double (weeks 18 and 19) and even triple (week 15). The counters only registered a week-on-week drop rarely, for example in the 14th week, when average daily temperatures reached a mere 7° C. On the Easter weekend in week 15, when thermometers climbed to nearly 20° C, the highest growth was registered, eightfold! Thus people made use of bicycles instead of public transport during quarantine, but also likely – with regard for the weather – as a leisure alternative to closed sports grounds.

Changes in the modal share, or How We Rode

For preventive reasons, people understandably endeavoured to avoid contact with others. The decline in metro passengers was significant during quarantine – totalling over 50 percent. With the drop in interest in taking buses in the evening, some lines did not run after 10 pm.

Nevertheless, by week 20 workday passenger numbers reached nearly half of ordinary levels. On the weekend this was even surpassed. In the previous (19th) week, an average of just under 800 000 passengers had been transported by public transport means, in week 20 it was already over a million.

The fall-off in vehicles on Prague’s roads may have seemed greater, but overall it was only by one tenth. The cause may have been that parking was unrestricted in blue zones.

Calendar week 2020StartEnd
710 February16 February
1216 March22 March
1323 March29 March
1430 March5 April
156 April12 April
1613 April19 April
1720 April26 April
1827 April3 May
194 May10 May
2011 May17 May