How COVID is Changing Our Commute

The view from CHS Consulting Group’s office

Now that the vaccine roll-out has begun, it feels we are slowly inching closer to the end of COVID-19. The pandemic has had a huge impact on our work-life and commute. We’ll need to understand how our society has been transformed and how our transportation systems must adapt to better serve the people who use them.

Work from home (WFH) is here to stay. 

Office professionals have become accustomed to the flexibility of a full-time work from home (WFH) schedule during the pandemic and employers have adapted to it by necessity. But even many high-tech companies have found that daily Zoom calls cannot offer the same collaborative environment and social interaction of the physical office. A hybrid WFH/WFO model will likely become the new normal. 

The Continued Popularity of Active Transportation Modes

Walking, cycling, and other active modes of travel have become more popular during the pandemic, but while the initial shelter in place (SIP) reduced vehicle traffic, particularly during typical rush hour commutes, volumes have rebounded to nearly pre-COVID levels. Street calming measures will be vital to encourage the continued growth of human-powered forms of travel, including slow streets, flex streets, and complete street pilot programs.

The Need for More Transit Investment (Operations and Infrastructure)

Transit commute mode share has dropped significantly due to fears of COVID-19 transmission and key indicators such as increased personal vehicle purchases and reduced ridesharing also indicate a move away from trains and buses to single occupancy vehicles (SOVs). The American Public Transit Association has stated that transit can be used safely during the pandemic as long as passengers wear face coverings and contact tracing programs in many countries have not found clusters of cases linked to transit. Transit agencies are in need of immediate and long-term financial support to continue serving essential workers and re-establish regular commute service.

Driving alone is more popular than ever, so now what?

COVID-19 has made it even more difficult to disincentivize driving to work alone. As workers return to the office, an active management approach will be needed to reduce gridlock and minimize the growth of vehicle miles traveled (VMT), including congestion management and roadway pricing, transportation demand management (both carrots and sticks), and parking pricing strategies. It will be essential to financially support and promote the safety and benefits of transit and alternative modes.