For the first time workers who work from home (7.9 million), or telework, exceed those who use public transportation (7.6 million) to get to work. The Census Bureau’s most recent annual Community Survey found the teleworking surpassed transit usage as the second most popular means of getting to work (the single occupant vehicle still
These findings are both good and bad news for many regions. The good news is that more and more companies are embracing the concept of teleworking and as a result, this shift in worker mode is easing congestion on regional road networks. The bad news is the impact that such a shift is having on regional transit services, which continue to see declines in ridership in the majority of metropolitan regions.
Major metropolitan areas like New York, Boston and DC, have all seen about 3.9 percent decline in transit usage. The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) has also seen a 10 percent decline in bus usage, even more troubling (see associated article in this edition) because bus service is often the only means of transportation for underserved communities and populations.
The percentage of workers who work from home is probably underestimated due to the fact that the Census numbers under-count those who are self-employed, most of which whom work from home. Moreover, in the DC area, teleworking has been encouraged by most federal agencies, therefore this region probably has a higher percentage of teleworkers than most metro regions. The good news, as expressed in the chart below, teleworking is on the rise. As we all know, we can’t build our way out of our regional congestion, but telework offers another very useful tool to combat lost economic opportunity due to traffic congestion.