California Highways as Economic Indicator

I’m a big fan of drive-by economic indicators, the sort of data that people disclose by their actions, as opposed to via surveys and the like on which they often lie. A case in point: Highway traffic in California.

You can’t help but notice here in southern California that it’s newly much lighter on the roads. No matter the time of day, it is far easier to get around than it was even a scant few weeks ago. There are simply aren’t as many cars on the roads, as California suffers from having entered recession earlier than the rest of the country. That has many consequences, ranging from reduced gas consumption, to lower greenhouse gas emissions, and so on.

Check the following chart to see how traffic has declined across the state -– as measured by normalized delays –- over the the last year:


[Data via CalTrans/PeMS]