Revealing Critical Characteristics of Mobility Patterns in New York City during the Onset of COVID-19 Pandemic

Akhil Anil Rajput, Qingchun Li, Xinyu Gao, Ali Mostafavi

New York has become one of the worst-affected COVID-19 hotspots and a pandemic epicenter due to the ongoing crisis. This paper identifies the impact of the pandemic and the effectiveness of government policies on human mobility by analyzing multiple datasets available at both macro and micro levels for the New York City. Using data sources related to population density, aggregated population mobility, public rail transit use, vehicle use, hotspot and non-hotspot movement patterns, and human activity agglomeration, we analyzed the inter-borough and intra-borough moment for New York City by aggregating the data at the borough level. We also assessed the internodal population movement amongst hotspot and non-hotspot points of interest for the month of March and April 2020. Results indicate a drop of about 80% in people's mobility in the city, beginning in mid-March. The movement to and from Manhattan showed the most disruption for both public transit and road traffic. The city saw its first case on March 1, 2020, but disruptions in mobility can be seen only after the second week of March when the shelter in place orders was put in effect. Owing to people working from home and adhering to stay-at-home orders, Manhattan saw the largest disruption to both inter- and intra-borough movement. But the risk of spread of infection in Manhattan turned out to be high because of higher hotspot-linked movements. The stay-at-home restrictions also led to an increased population density in Brooklyn and Queens as people were not commuting to Manhattan. Insights obtained from this study would help policymakers better understand human behavior and their response to the news and governmental policies.

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