From Apple’s Mobility Trends Reports, Charting the Impact of Divergent Coronavirus Policy Responses
To help “coordinate a response to COVID-19 public health concerns” Apple has just released Mobility Trends Reports, an insightful dive into the divergent mobility impacts cities across the world are experiencing. The charts show how walking, driving, and transit have been affected by COVID-19, and different policy responses, in myriad global cities.
Looking at major cities around the Americas, Europe, and Asia, the three modes of transport Apple Maps tracked saw normal peaks and valleys from when the data begins on January 13, 2020 until around March, when the world began its precipitous shutdown in response to coronavirus.
In the U.S., major cities like Boston, New York and San Francisco have seen pretty equally drastic drops in all forms of mobility. Walking, driving, and transit in those cities have seen declines in the 60-80 percent range.
Places like Los Angeles, Miami, and Detroit have seen big decreases as well, just not quite as intensely as in other metropoles, registering decreases in the 50 to 70 percent range. For most U.S. locales, the biggest declines happened around the same time, in mid-March, as stay-at-home orders swept across the nation.
However, when looking at Seattle, WA, the steep decline begins much earlier, right at the beginning of March, seeing as they ordered residents to shelter in place sooner. Sadly, that didn’t do much to hinder the spread of the highly infectious disease — the state currently has some 11,000+ cases reported as of this writing.
Italy is one of the countries hit hardest by the pandemic, and Rome’s mobility data reflects that. A steep decline in all modes of transportation began in the end of February as the country’s COVID-19 cases began climbing. The numbers bottom out near the beginning of March and have held steady with a 90 percent drop in driving, a 94 percent drop in walking and a 95 percent drop in transit use.
Italy’s shutdowns first began in its northern region; looking at Milan, a significant, early drop in mobility can be seen by late February. Comparing the data with Rome, one can visualize how the virus, and accompanying lockdown, swept the nation from north to south, with the capital city showing dramatic declines across all mobility modes.
Sweden – A Painful Outlier
Of all the cities covered by Apple’s data, Sweden has seen the least drastic drop in mobility. Transit is down 40 percent, walking is down 28 percent, and driving is down only 8 percent. This is an apt visualization of the Scandinavian nation’s controversial decision to not institute any lockdown or shelter-in-place measures. This is also likely why Sweden’s number of coronavirus deaths is an astounding 17 times higher than neighboring countries. As of April 16th, Sweden now has 12,500 COVID-19 cases in a country of just over 10 million.
In Germany, the data show a different pattern that most other countries, with driving taking a bigger hit than transit. The country enacted a national curfew and promoted social distancing, and despite a lockdown, transit wasn’t as hard hit as other cities around the world. Dortmund saw transit decline 23 percent while driving dropped 47 percent. Dusseldorf saw transit fall 52 percent and driving 57 percent. Hamburg was also close but still driving dropped 47 percent while transit declined by only 44 percent. In Stuttgart, transit was down 48 percent and driving dropped 58 percent.
Compared to most of the graphs from other cities around the globe, Japan is a bit of an outlier. While most other nations and cities saw a dramatic decline in mobility across the spectrum near the beginning of March, Japan showed an earlier drop, as infections started sooner due to its proximity to China. Somewhat surprisingly, mobility began to steadily climb back up throughout March. After reaching a peak near the end of the month, a steady decline began as April neared. This is likely a reflection of Japan’s bifurcated response to the virus, with prefectures like Hokkaido first declaring a state of emergency in February, lifting it in March, and then returning to a state of emergency in April. While much of the world was locked down, many Japanese businesses were still open, commuters were still packing into trains, and the country experienced its usual domestic travel spike during March’s cherry blossom season.
Hong Kong And The Likely Future…
Hong Kong is an interesting case. The territory got ahead of the virus as its citizens donned face masks and socially distanced early, some even sheltering at home before the government ordered it. As such, their mobility data shows a very early drop in mid-January, and then a leveling out at a new baseline around 40-60 percent below usual. With no clear indicator that mobility will return to normal anytime soon, we can expect to see other cities’ graphs match Hong Kong’s data in the near future.