Coronavirus: Traffic volumes steadily increasing during lockdown

Volumes up 10 per cent since first weeks of restrictions, figures show

Chief Medical Officer, Dr Tony Holohan, says that data provided by the Irish National Seismic Network - used to monitor earthquakes - shows an increase in population movement in recent days, despite continued coronavirus restrictions. Video: RTÉ

 

Traffic volumes are up by about 10 per cent this week since the first three weeks of lockdown, according to the latest figures produced by Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII).

The information taken from 350 traffic points around the country is corroborated by both seismic data from the Dublin Institute of Advanced Studies (DIAS) and from Apple mobile phone monitoring.

The chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan on Thursday warned against complacency and pointed to data from traffic volumes, mobile phones and seismic sensors that suggested an increase in activity, or a “slippage” in compliance.

Dr Holohan said he understood the public’s frustration, but “it would take very little indeed for us to lose the good work we have done”.

He stressed that while people may feel Ireland is on “a pathway towards the slackening of measures on May 5th, that is not the case. If the decision was to be made today, we wouldn’t be advising any of the restrictions in place be relaxed”.

According to the TII, in the time between the closure of the schools on March 12th and the general lockdown announced on March 27th, traffic volumes were down by 40 per cent on weekdays. They plummeted further by up to 70 per cent after a ban was placed on all non-essential travel outside a two kilometre zone.

On Easter Sunday, April 12th, traffic fell to just 13 per cent of what would have been normal volumes.

Since the Easter Bank Holiday weekend, there has been an upturn in passenger numbers. An analysis of TII figures for three of the busiest traffic points in the country show that volumes are rising day on day.

Between Tuesday April 14th and Thursday April 16th (Monday, April 13th being a Bank Holiday), traffic on the M1 between Donabate and Balbriggan South, on the M50 between the M4 and the M7 junctions, and the M8 between Glanmire and Dunkettle near Cork city are up 7.8 per cent, 6.5 per cent and 5 per cent respectively week on week.

Traffic volumes between the first Thursday of the lockdown (April 2nd) and Thursday of this week (April 23rd) indicate increases of 11.5 per cent in traffic volumes on the M50, 9 per cent on the M8 and 7 per cent on the M1. However, even these traffic increases leave volumes a third of what would be expected normally.

A TII spokesman said traffic volumes in general are up by 10 per cent on average in comparison with the first three weeks of the lockdown and that figures presented to the Government by the organisation demonstrate that fact.

TII information only measures traffic points between towns and cities and not activity within cities.

The Irish National Seismic Network earthquake monitor located in the Dublin mountains has picked up a notable upsurge in human-made seismic noise April has progressed.

The stations recorded seismic noise up to a third lower than it was before the lockdown dropping to its quietest point on Easter Sunday, but all of the days of this week have seen more activity in the greater Dublin area than any other days since the lockdown started.

The graph was used by Dr Holohan at Thursday’s press conference to illustrate his point about more noise. However, a spokesman for the Dublin Institute of Advanced Studies said it would not be answering questions about the data for “fear of damaging NPHET (National Public Health Emergency Team) work in producing the clear succinct messages that are critical at this time”.

Apple has made its mobility data available to government from Apple map requests. They show that activity continues to remain significantly below normal.

Currently requests for information on driving are down 64 per cent, walking 67 per cent and other forms of transit such as public transport or cycling by 87 per cent. In the first week of the lockdown, though requests for maps relating to driving and walking were down by 70 per cent in total. This would indicate an increase of activity of about five per cent.

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