Survey: Fewer Days at the Office, More Traffic

The Bay Area commute may never be the same again, but what that means for the region’s highways and mass transit systems still remains to be seen. Eight months of data from a survey the Bay Area Council conducted of approximately 200 employers has consistently found that most don’t expect workers to return to offices or other workplaces more than three days a week after the pandemic passes and restrictions lift.

The data, from a monthly survey the Bay Area Council has been conducting in partnership with the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and EMC Research since April 2021, found that approximately 40% of employers expect employees to return to their places of work three days a week after the pandemic passes. In addition to eight months of data consistently finding the three day a week new norm, employers are also growing more confident that this frequency will be the new norm, with 92% of employers in November indicating they are somewhat confident, confident or very confident in this frequency.

Extrapolating from the region’s overall pre-pandemic workforce, the survey findings suggest possibly an average of 1.1 million fewer commute trips to primary places of employment per day after COVID recedes into our rearview mirror. But the potential drop in commute trips doesn’t mean that traffic is going to be any less of a nightmare than before the pandemic. Traffic on Bay Area bridges has largely returned to pre-pandemic levels, with current rush hour volumes on the Bay Bridge even higher, and transit ridership continues to badly lag, with BART ridership at just 26% of pre-pandemic levels. The findings highlight the importance of getting commuters back on transit.

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