If employers make teleworking a permanent option, there is a possibility that the number of commuters who drive alone will continue to decrease—easing traffic congestion and saving travelers time and money. As previously mentioned, questions remain on how impactful hybrid commute models will be. For example, if metropolitan office workers dramatically reduce time in the workplace, will they avoid transit and drive alone on the days they do need to go to the office, since it may be tolerable to drive on those few days? More time is needed to answer that question and better understand the long-term impacts of hybrid commuting on transportation demand management.
Taking a closer look at employers’ return-to-work plans, some organizations—such as manufacturers and those providing medical care—are requiring employees to work fully in-person due to the nature of their work. However, most employers polled are offering hybrid and flex models that allow commuters to work from home at least once per week. Approximately 55% of employers in our survey indicated that hybrid options are included as part of their return-to-worksite plans. Some employers have even stated that they will remain completely remote, saving the costs of office space and giving themselves competitive employee recruitment and retention leverage.
As shown in the graphic below, employers are returning to in-person work through a variety of models, though most data points indicate that some sort of telework option is available to commuters. Each point on this map represents a unique employer. One interesting note is that seven of the eight hybrid employers captured in this graphic did not have telework programs prior to the pandemic.
Surveyed employer telework options by location
Looking back, transportation demand management experts, environmental advocates, and economists have sought for decades to make teleworking a part of American workforce culture. As early as 1979, headlines called for Americans to work from home to save gasoline, alleviate traffic congestion, and reduce air pollution.
Today, millions of commuters find themselves working from home and experiencing the plentiful benefits of teleworking such as more time with their families, less stress from sitting in traffic, and saving money on fuel—which has rapidly become more expensive in 2022. Some healthcare workers that chose to drive alone at the height of the pandemic have begun to feel more comfortable returning to transit, and many carpools and vanpools are resuming regular operations.
With return-to-work plans in action, commuting patterns will continue to evolve throughout 2022. By leveraging the benefits of sustained telework habits and return-to-transit for commutes into the office, we could see a significant reduction in congestion from pre-pandemic levels. Continuing to remove SOVs from the road can help change the way people see their commute and allow all of us to benefit from cleaner air and stress-free travel.
ICF has a dedicated team of sustainable mobility specialists, marketing professionals, and data engineers that work together to strategize, implement, and promote alternative transportation tools, services, and resources on behalf of our clients. The future of commuting has uncertainties, but we can help make sure the lasting impacts of changing travel habits are sustained.