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Commuting Survey Expects More Solo Drivers Post-Pandemic

Vehicle traffic leaving Boston on the Massachusetts Turnpike. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Vehicle traffic leaving Boston on the Massachusetts Turnpike. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

The share of Boston employees who plan to commute alone in their own cars when they return to the office has dropped since last year, though it still stands higher than the pre-pandemic baseline, officials said Tuesday.

Comparing survey responses from summer 2020 and spring 2021, city of Boston officials and leaders at the A Better City business coalition said interest in options such as public transportation and bicycling is growing even as driving alone remains popular.

In the first survey the partners ran last year, 23% of commuters said they typically drove alone to work before the pandemic and 38% said they planned to do so when they return. The second survey, conducted in the spring of this year, found a smaller rate of 28% planning to drive alone to the office.

"Even a relatively small increase to the number of drive-alone commuters in the city carries the promise of increased GhG and particulate emissions along with productivity-sapping congestion," the city and business coalition wrote in a report summarizing the trends.

Interest in most other modes of transportation — except for bicycling, which 9% of respondents said they plan to do to get to work — lags below pre-COVID levels, the surveys found.

About 27% of workers polled said they planned to take the subway when they return to work compared to 33% pre-COVID, while 14% intend to use the commuter rail (16% pre-COVID) and 9% anticipate taking the bus (11% pre-COVID).

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