(Roundup) COVID-19’s impact on transportation and the commute

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to transform all aspects of daily life as we know it. This Global Pause has brought the daily ritual of commuting to a standstill, apart from our country’s essential workers.

But what might commuting and transportation look like in a world where we start to go back to the workplace, with a vaccine in place or not? What short- and long-term impacts will the virus have on our commute modes, patterns, and behaviors?

As the pandemic continues to evolve, we’ll be updating this post regularly with the latest news, opinions, and points-of-view from the Scoop team, industry experts, media, and health professionals to help you better understand COVID-19’s impact on your employees—both now and in the future.

Commuters and employers scramble for answers

With employee safety being a primary concern about returning to the workplace, it’s no surprise many commuters are thinking about a familiar old stalwart: driving alone. A new study from Vanderbilt University concludes that if everyone takes those measures, it could be disastrous for our commutes, especially in traffic-ravaged metros like the SF Bay Area. Just how bad will it get? Expect an additional 42 minutes added to the commute.

Most transit experts agree that physical distancing and enforcement of safety protocols on mass transit is nearly impossible. But as urban planners are noting, a rush back to SOVs would be “nightmare, in terms of congestion, in terms of pollution.”

Some in government are quick to suggest other modes like biking to work, but acknowledged that it likely isn’t feasible for most metro areas, especially for those with longer commutes. “You cannot think of someone coming from the Bronx into Manhattan on a bike,” said Columbia University’s Purnima Kapur—until recently the executive director of the New York City Department of City Planning—“it just doesn’t work.”

A world without traffic—can we sustain it?

For states easing lockdowns across the country, there are more questions than answers. One huge one is whether we can really afford to bring back the same old problems with the commute: traffic, parking woes, pollution, and all the health effects that tag along. Is there a path forward? The Brookings Institute continues to build on the strong case against a return to SOVs.

Employees top concern about returning to workplaces? The commute.

Data from across the country is starting to trickle in as companies prepare their back-to-workplace plans. We’ve already identified that the commute needs to be at the center of those conversations, and employees feel the same. A recent survey by JLL concluded that the top concern about workplace re-entry centers on the commute.

COVID-19 continues to impact transportation

Public transit ridership in many communities has seen a drop in ridership due to shelter-in-place (SIP) orders and exposure risks. But just how big has the drop in ridership been? Moovit is tracking the numbers for the SF Bay Area in real-time here.

One of the many side effects of stay-at-home orders during the coronavirus pandemic is a catastrophic decline in state and local transportation funding, which officials said threatens to bring road and bridge construction to a screeching halt for the next year and a half. With less reliability and availability, commuters will be looking to replace shared transit modes.

Contact tracing and the commute

Governments and health agencies alike have touted the importance contact tracing will play in society’s ability to confine COVID-19. Both Apple and Google are working on solutions—can they help us get back to work more safely?

Car boom in Wuhan, China

The post-lockdown recovery in China is taking shape. Are single occupancy vehicles (SOVs) and their historical baggage (pollution, congestion, parking woes) going to lead the forefront of mobility for the near future, or is it a short-lived trend?

Essential workers have few choices for the commute

The commuting patterns of essential workers point to a troubling future as the broader workforce begins to return: what about the health and safety of those without access to SOVs?

Transit has been battered, but what’s ahead may be worse

The New York Times offers a thorough investigation into ridership drops, budget cuts, and lack of route availability for public transit in the time of COVID-19.

The cumulative effect is that mass transit faces a future potentially uglier than the period after the Great Recession, when many agencies made deep service cuts that took a decade to rebound from.

In a pandemic, we’re all transit dependent

As employees weigh the pros and cons of various forms of shared mobility, CityLab explores how during times like these, transit will do well to think of itself as a public utility.

Scoop Team

Get started with Scoop

Connect with our team and see how Scoop's platform can empower your hybrid organization