Coronavirus concerns ease traffic: Telecommuting, school closures having 'major impact' on drive times

SEATTLE -- Have your work commutes been noticeably quicker and easier this week? You're not alone.

Over the past week as coronavirus cases increase and public health officials encourage social distancing to stop the spread of the virus, several major companies have asked employees to work from home instead of at the office.  Friday, the University of Washington, which has more than 45,000 students, announced that classes will be taught online for the rest of the quarter after an employee tested positive.

Several other schools are closed, and the entire Northshore School District has shifted to online learning for the next two weeks.

The shift to telecommuting for the Seattle area's largest employers, coupled with school closures, is having a "major impact" on traffic in the Puget Sound region, according to Inrix, a Kirkland based traffic data and analytics company.

Inrix said drivers are getting to where they're going roughly 10 mph faster than normal overall. Thursday, the first day of telecommuting for several major companies, saw travel speeds increase by 50-100 percent.

"As precautionary measures continue to be taken, and likely more widely implemented throughout the region, it is likely major time savings for drivers will persist," Inrix said in a blog post. "Long-run, the question will be whether these dramatic shifts will have any residual impact on commuter and business behavior."