Google Maps Data Shows Mobility Changes in Oregon

Tech giant Google LLC has put together Community Mobility Reports with global Google Maps data. This report data was last updated the night of April 1st and the data is approximately from 2-3 days prior.  

The report for Benton County shows a 60% reduction in retail and recreation, a 35% reduction in grocery and pharmacy, a 5% reduction in visits to parks, a 51% reduction from transit stations, a 46% reduction in workplace data, and a 25% increase in residential data. Additionally, Google does denote when they have not collected enough data to provide a complete analysis. For Benton County these categories include parks and transit stations, this lack of data for these categories are shared in many counties in Oregon as well as other states.

The Community Mobility Reports utilize Google Maps data with check-ins over time to places in different

categories such as retail and recreation, groceries and pharmacies, parks, transit stations, workplaces, and residential. Google explained that they put these reports together after hearing from public health officials that the anonymized insights that Google Maps provides could be helpful in forming responses to the COVID-19 outbreak. Also, these global metrics provide insights into population responses to polices that have already been enacted. Google has provided specific data from county to county in each state.  

While this tracking provides a significant amount of data for Oregon and from all over world, it also does have

some inherit oversights. Data in this instance is reliant on someone having their location services enabled on their device, so the Community Mobility Report cannot paint an entirely accurate picture. Furthermore, lack of context may lead those interpreting this data to false conclusions.  

Previously, the only similar data on this topic did not provide very actionable insights because they didn’t have the sample size Google is using.  

Among other things Google Maps data provides insights categorically that likely would not be possible with anything else. Overall, this data shows that Oregon and the rest of the United States have seen decreases in mobility in every category to varying degrees other than in residential travel. This is likely due to people traveling back from college, grocery delivery services, and other delivery needs from medication delivery to Amazon deliveries. In any event, it will be interesting to see how the residential travel category changes over time, and how policy makers will respond to these insights.  

By Sam Schultz