January 22, 2021


Predicting what the world will look like after the coronavirus pandemic winds down may be a tough ordeal, but researchers in Greater Boston may have some answers on how regional transportation may change.

A November survey conducted by the Boston Transportation Department and the Boston-based nonprofit “A Better City” interviewed workers in and around the city to better understand how COVID-19 has impacted commuting before and during the public health crisis.

The more than 4,200 respondents – employees primarily working in the hospital, higher education and business professional industries – were also questioned about how their transportation choices may shift in a post-pandemic environment.

The results of the survey, posted online recently, showed 38% of the individuals interviewed plan on driving alone to work once the public health crisis winds down. That is a 15-point jump from the only 23% of respondents who said they were driving alone pre-COVID-19.

Driving alone was by far the most popular mode of transportation among respondents looking ahead past the pandemic, with 38% saying it was their favored anticipated commuting method for when the public health crisis comes to an end.

Taking the subway followed at 16.4%, using the commuter rail at 12.3%, biking at 8%, walking at 6.1%, taking the bus at 6% and telecommuting or working from home at 4.5%. Those who answered they plan to take a private bus or shuttle, carpool or use a taxi, Uber or Lyft amounted to less than 3% of respondents each.

Among the factors weighing in on people’s plans to switch to driving alone after the pandemic ends was safety, according to the survey.

“Though 15% of all survey respondents indicate that they plan to switch from sustainable commuting to driving alone when their workplaces fully reopen, there are a number of mitigating factors respondents identify as possible to support them in driving alone less,” the survey said. “The majority of those planning to make the switch indicate that their primary motivation is safety, suggesting that some amount of this behavior change could be impermanent in a post-vaccine future.”

Of the drive-alone respondents who said they are open to changing their transportation behavior, 45% identified a free or reduced-cost MBTA pass as the most influential potential action to support them making the switch.

The survey also found that although more than 80% of respondents reported a desire to telework more than they did before the coronavirus outbreak, only about 20% said they want to telework full-time after their workplaces completely reopen.

Forty-seven percent of respondents to the survey answered they would prefer to telework a few times per week, while 16% believe they would most benefit from teleworking a few times per month. Nine percent answered they would like to never telework.

Another key finding from the survey was that a greater number of Boston-area employees may be more open to biking to their workplaces than they were prior to the COVID-19 crisis.

Of the 1,086 respondents who indicated they plan to switch to a