Hopefully, everyone is looking forward to the weekend. We’re about halfway through phase 3 with the next step coming up on June 26 at the earliest. We are watching to see if any changes are potentially announced a little early and will report out ASAP. In the meantime, here is the news of the day.
Confusing Retail Data
Across the nation, foot traffic at retail stores came within 20% of 2019 levels according to cell phone data. Back in April when we were looking at the height of restrictions, retail activity barely came within 50% of last year.
However, there exists a variance based on regions. Close to a third of states from Montana southeast to Alabama showed nearly a full recovery. In contrast, the coastal states and those midwestern states hit early and hard by the virus have yet to see a big rebound. A total of 19 states unfortunately have not seen one day that traffic came close to 2019 levels. Of three week-to-week changes measured over the last 28 days, states showing the least recovery in retail foot traffic reduced the growth in coronavirus cases an average of two of the previous three weeks. The average for other states was just 1.3 weeks of the past three. As time goes on, we will wait to see how quick those traffic numbers will jump back up.
Utility Shutoff Moratorium
State residents will have further protections from utility shutoffs after the current moratorium expires when the state moves into the next phase of reopening. Utility companies have been prohibited from disconnecting all electric gas, water, and sewage services since March 18 under Governor Pritzker’s state of emergency.
In an agreement between the Illinois Commerce Commission, Attorney General Kwame Raoul, consumer groups, and major utility companies, the moratorium will extend until the state enters Phase 4 of the Restore Illinois plan or no later than Aug. 1. People who would have had their services shut off will be given a 30-day grace period after the moratorium is lifted. If a consumer had stopped paying utility bills throughout the shutoff freeze, they will likely receive a notice from their provider detailing due balances and repayment plans.
CMAP Update on Transit During COVID
Since the start of the COVID response and stay at home order transit and transportation use has significantly changed. Here is some information that has been gathered during the pandemic. This includes data and analysis of movement on our roadways, safety, transit ridership & freight rail movements.
Illinois roadways have experienced lower traffic as a result of the COVID pandemic. The decline is much more pronounced for passenger travel than for trucks, reflecting the continued need to ship goods. The decline also depends on the type of roadway and measure. During the first two weeks of the stay at home order, Illinois Tollway traffic was 55% lower than forecasted for passenger vehicle traffic and 9% for truck traffic. For the same time period, average passenger traffic on IDOT arterials and expressways declined 47% and heavy truck (multiunit) traffic declined 10%. Travel by single-unit trucks, which typically serve a more local travel market, initially decreased somewhat more than heavy trucks. But since late March passenger car and single-unit truck traffic have steadily recovered, with single-unit truck volume returning to pre-COVID levels. Except for a dip in late April, heavy truck traffic has remained 10 – 12% below pre-crisis levels. A similar rebound trend has occurred in traffic on the Illinois Tollway.
Besides reducing congestion, cutbacks in travel from COVID-19 are also reducing injuries from crashes. In the City of Chicago, the number of serious and fatal traffic injuries from the first week of March to the end of May has grown more slowly this year than in the two preceding years. Safety has improved for car occupants as well as bicyclists and pedestrians. In fact, the reduction in serious injuries and fatalities has been more pronounced for bicyclists and pedestrians.
Transit usage has declined to an even greater degree than passenger car traffic as social distancing continues. Transit ridership had declined by more than 80% across the RTA system by the end of April but has slowly been increasing. The largest decline was on Metra (97%) whose customer base is dominated by downtown commuters who have largely shifted to working remotely. Transit agencies have increased cleaning of vehicles and stations and have implemented a number of measures to increase safety such as encouraging the use of face coverings, social distancing on board, and rear door boarding on buses. While CTA kept its overall service levels, several service adjustments at Metra and Pace were made in response changes in ridership. As Illinois has entered Phase 3 of the recovery, Metra has returned to alternate weekday schedules and restored service on the South West Service, Heritage Corridor and North Central Service lines.
Freight rail activity has declined somewhat, but as with trucking, shipments of goods have continued. The number of rail cars en route to Chicago were down 22 percent from the first week of March to the second week of April, and rail cars processed in the Chicago terminal were down 22 percent over the same time period. Volumes remained at low levels through May, but there was a slight uptick in volumes for the week ending June 6. Freight-rail transit times through the Chicago region have remained relatively steady despite the decrease in volume being handled.
President Trump Signs Order to Accelerate Infrastructure Projects
President Trump signed an Executive Order that waives requirements under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and other environmental laws in an effort to expedite construction of important infrastructure projects throughout the country. Notably, Section 4 of the Executive Order, titled “Expediting the Delivery of Civil Works Projects Within the Purview of the Army Corps of Engineers,” requires the Corps of Engineers to use all of its emergency authorities to expedite work on, and completion of, all authorized and appropriated Civil Works projects.
Finally, we want to make sure that you have seen the latest announcement for our next Virtual Conference series. Join us next Thursday, June 18 for Diversity & Inclusion in the Workplace…in the World with Troy Cicero of MultiultuReal Communications. The session will focus on:
- Understanding Diversity and Inclusion and the urgency of now
- Prepare for paradigm shifts
- Gain broad perspective for greater workplace effectiveness
Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce & Industry Staff and Board of Directors
Vice President – Government Affairs
Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce & Industry
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