As with many organizations, the COVID pandemic prompted state transportation agencies across the country to embrace greater flexibility in where, when, and how employees work. For large organizations with diverse staff—from road maintenance crews to administrative support—the transition presents many challenges. A new NCHRP report outlines how several agencies have approached those challenges and offers guidance for those still trying to find their way.
Changing travel behavior may be confounding our traditional notions about transportation demand as evidence shows that people were staying home more even before the pandemic. The debate continues as to whether remote and hybrid work schedules lead to less driving overall, or just distribute driving differently throughout the day. Yet scholars are finding that flexible, work-from-home schedules may be associated with people being more active.
Research from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) finds that strategies such as providing parking cash-outs, offering commuter benefits, and eliminating subsidized parking could drastically reduce commute VMT in cities. The study also concluded that the implementation of these strategies and the resulting decline in VMT could reduce congestion, emissions, and serious traffic crashes.
For most people, changing how they get to work isn’t an easy task. According to the last national travel survey, almost one in ten people drive to work and only four percent walk. As Jeff Speck writes in a recent article for NextCity, events like National Walk to Work Day focus on a goal that decades of suburban growth and road design have made impossible for most. It potentially distracts from the changes in community design that would make walking more attractive, including for purposes other than commuting.
When gas prices rise it seems reasonable to expect people to economize by driving less. According to one indicator brought to light by Eno Center for Transportation, gasoline usage in the U.S.—and by extension driving—hit an all-time high during fiscal year 2022. During the same period gas prices were the highest we’ve seen—adjusted for inflation—since the great recession that began in 2008. But the U.S. is swiftly returning to pre-pandemic levels of vehicle miles traveled (VMT), perhaps due to pandemic-era travel patterns and relocations.
The impacts of telecommuting often come up in SSTI’s work around travel demand management and climate action plans, so our team makes a point of staying on top of the latest relevant research. Although the pandemic showed us that remote work helped cut traffic considerably, especially in major job centers, the verdict is still out on whether widespread telecommuting could really help lower travel demand. A growing number of studies suggest it could have the opposite effect.
Housing and transportation are the top two expenses for the average household in the U.S. Increased housing near high-quality transit can reduce transportation costs, but does not come without the risk of higher housing costs and potential displacement. Two studies released this year can help us understand the ways in which transit can be a net benefit, and some of the pitfalls to watch out for.
Not everyone hates their commute, according to recent research. While drivers and transit riders would prefer to teleport to work if they had the option, the majority of cyclists and pedestrians surveyed would keep their current commute. The researchers noted that “people seem to value the exercise they get from using active transportation modes for their commutes,” adding that cyclists and pedestrians also report higher levels of mental health associated with their commutes. Pedestrian and cyclist commuters also had more positive responses to questions about confidence, and freedom, independence, and control.
New research out of California looks at the effect of priced parking on commuter mode choice and transportation costs for low-income households. Findings from two studies suggest raising the price of commuter parking by 10 percent could lower car use by as much as three percentage points and, while residential parking permits could hit low-income households hardest, few households would be disproportionately affected. Moreover, revenues from paid parking could offset any potential burden.
There’s no shortage of research suggesting that longer commutes can take a toll on workers’ health and happiness. But if that doesn’t concern employers and public officials, a new study out of Australia shows that longer commutes also translate into lower job performance and considerably more missed work.