Wednesday 20 January 2021

Traffic congestion reaches highest levels during pandemic

Saturday November 28 showed the highest data since March; Relaxed restriction on weekends, increased movements in the last month

QCOSTARICA – “Black Friday” was combined with the “long” weekend brought traffic congestion to the highest level recorded since the start of the health emergency due to the COVID-19 coronavirus.

For illustrative purposes

Traffic congestion and collapse of the major roads network that many experienced on Saturday, March 28, were not a pure impression, as confirmed by the data collected by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) through the Waze platform.

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This analysis, available on the website of the IDB, takes as a point of reference the figures collected on March 8 (the baseline) when road conditions were still normal and a stark contrast to the data of Friday, April 10 (Good Friday) which had the lowest level of congestion since the sanitary vehicle restriction was implemented (in force since March 24).

From the IDB website

At the other extreme, this Saturday, November 28, in the midst of the commercial activity of “Black Friday” and the holiday of Monday, November 30 for the National Day of the Abolition of the Army, was the day on which the highest peak occurred. high road congestion since the country faces the health crisis: 2% above the benchmark (March 8).

The data confirms the behavior of the vehicle load since the sanitary vehicle restriction was established as a strategy to presumably stop the spread of the coronavirus.

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The controversial guideline went through different stages during the year. One of the most recent came into effect on Wednesday, October 15, when the government announced that the daytime restrictions was eliminated for the weekends, allowing all vehicles to circulate between 5:00 am and 9:00 pm on Saturdays and Sundays. Before that date, since March, only odd plates circulated on Saturdays and only even ones on Sundays.

These flexibilities are evident in the data.

Given the trend, the Policia de Transito (Traffic Police) announced that they would reinforce the operations taking into account the upcoming end of year holidays.

According to the Transito, they are preparing almost 5,000 special operations between December 1, 2020 and January 3, 2021: 3,370 spot checks, 543 speed control operations, 218 drivers’ alcohol consumption control operations and 532 actions aimed at monitoring motorcycles (the main vehicle associated with road deaths since 2014).

“We will be in the most conflictive traffic points, trying to alleviate congestion, but we will also be very aware of those drink and drive, with operations at any time of the day, because experience proves that alcohol at the wheel occurs at any time of the year,” said Alberto Barquero, deputy director of the Politica de Transito, in statements provided by the Ministry of Public Works and Transport (MOPT).

For illustrative purposes

More data

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According to an analysis published by the State of the Nation Program (PEN), in the 2020 report, based on Waze data, among the trends that continue before and during the pandemic, throughout the country, is the highest congestion on Fridays, and also in the afternoon “rush” hour, between 4:00 pm and 7:00 p.m.

“Of course, the intensity levels are different between January-February and the following months, but the data show that in general the pandemic, although it substantially reduced that intensity, did not completely cancel out the mobility of people in those two instances,” he explained. the analysis.

In other words, according to the findings, although the levels of each month fell after February, the seasonality of Fridays remains during the pandemic.

“In the pandemic, between March and September 2020 there were weeks in which traffic flows were reduced by up to 90% compared to the previous months,”  added the PEN.

The sanitary vehicle restrictions

Though we are waiting for an annoucement to the sanitary vehicle restrictions (Restricción Sanitaria in Spanish) for the month of December, the following sanitary vehicle restrictions were in place from November 1 to November 30:

From Monday to Friday, vehicles cannot circulate between 10:00 pm and 5:00 am except for the list of exceptions; for daytime, from 5:00 am to 10:00 pm, vehicles cannot circulate based on their last digit as follows:

  • Mondays, cannot circulate plates ending in 1 & 2
  • Tuesdays, cannot circulate plates ending in 3 & 4
  • Wednesdays, cannot circulate plates ending in 5 & 6
  • Thursdays, cannot circulate plates ending in 7 & 8
  • Fridays, cannot circulate plates ending in 9 & 0

On weekends (Saturdays and Sundays) all plates cannot circualtre between 9:00pm and 5:00 am. There are no restrictions for daytime (5:00 am to 9:00 pm).

The exemptions for the night time restrictions can be found at the MOPT page, or the Casa Presidencial alerts page.


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We strive for accuracy in its reports. But if you see something that doesn’t look right, send us an email. The Q reviews and updates its content regularly to ensure it’s accuracy.

"Rico" is the crazy mind behind the Q media websites, a series of online magazines where everything is Q! In these times of new normal, stay at home. Stay safe. Stay healthy.

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