Weekly Wonder: Bostonians have warmed up to working from home and would prefer driving alone between home and work

By Devyani Chhetri
BU News Service 

Boston’s post-pandemic plans have officially been postponed with COVID-19 cases surging by the day. 

Gov. Baker announced Tuesday new restrictions on public interaction and a City of Boston survey report released late November revealed how attitudes towards commuting and transportation have changed since the coronavirus pandemic. 

Bostonians have warmed up to the idea of telework or working from home. Before the pandemic, 51% of the respondents had never worked from home. Now, about 60% have home offices and about 47% say that they would prefer working from home a few times a week. 

Further, until a semblance of pre-pandemic normalcy returns, more Bostonians will resort to driving alone and would consider switching to public transport if transit fees were lowered, according to the survey data. 

That being said, the majority of the respondents in the survey, about 24%, earned over $150,000 annually and around 73% indicated that they were not parents or guardians of a child under 18. It is possible that this survey misses a big chunk of the populace who earn minimum wage on an hourly basis and rely heavily on public transportation. 

Before the pandemic, nearly 23% of respondents were already driving alone to commute between work and home. That populace has grown by 15%, though most indicated that that could change with congestion-pricing and hiked parking fees. 

In January, Massachusetts lawmakers passed a package of transformative climate bills to achieve net zero emissions by 2050. The recent survey report also emphasized the association between areas with air pollution and increased COVID-19 cases, which was spotlighted by a Harvard study

Additionally, mayoral candidate Michelle Wu and other Boston City Council Members have pushed to switch completely to sustainable and accessible modes of transportation, which could help address the dual crises of climate change and COVID-19 that disproportionately impact minority communities. 

The report, whose primary respondents lived close enough to bike to work, also called for the city to build more bike lanes and asked companies to formulate programs that incentivizes transit and bike rides. 

Most respondents said that they worked in downtown Boston and the majority – 377 from over 4,222 – had homes in Sommerville and Cambridge. Twenty-five percent of those surveyed lived six to 10 miles away from work and about 39% lived five or less miles away. 

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