Don’t expect hybrid works to bring less traffic around Boston after pandemic
One of the big questions hanging over the recovery from the pandemic is what the commute will look like as more people return to work and school. The organization, A Better City, has been working with officials in Boston to provide clues as to what to expect. The organization has surveyed thousands of commuters over the past year and recently surveyed executives from 11 major employers to find out what they think about the future of work and commuting.
Employers say they expect to start – probably in September – with a hybrid model, which most of their employees say they want.
Better City CEO Rick Dimino said survey results, released Tuesday morning, show that between 65 and 70 percent of the workforce is expected to return to the office, while 20 to 25 % say they will continue to work from home full time. Given that only five percent worked from home before the pandemic, that should mean fewer commuters on the road and less traffic. But Dimino said when it comes to traffic jams, getting more people to work from home is not a panacea.
“Even with 75 percent of people coming back, if a good chunk of them decide to use their cars, then we’ll go right back to the trend of being the worst congested city in the United States,” a- he declared.
The alternative is to get commuters to start using, or return to using, public transportation. And that could be a challenge.
The MBTA reports that only about 50 percent of bus riders have returned so far, and only 40 percent of those who have used the metro are driving again. Rail traffic remains low at just 20% of pre-pandemic levels.
Dimino said that there is always a perception that taking public transport is not safe and that is why the T must provide a full service with enough buses and metro cars to make passengers feel more safe. He added that the commuter train is expected to maintain its new schedule. Established during the pandemic due to low attendance, trains are scheduled at regular hourly intervals throughout the day and not just during traditional rush hours, which no longer exist.
Monica Tibbits-Nutt, vice chair of the MBTA’s Tax Management Control Board, said that whatever happens with the daily commute, she doesn’t want to see the system revert to what it was. She said the T has to do better by its runners.
“We need to keep taking action and building a system designed for everyone, not just those in the right neighborhood.
with the right amount of money or the right skin color, ”she said. “We will not bring back runners or attract new runners without services to meet their needs. We need fairer fare options and more buses.
Dimino could not but agree. He said the T should create what it calls “tailor-made fare products” that reflect a shift from traditional rush-hour-based commuting to more flexible hours, which could make transportation in common more affordable.
The ABC report makes recommendations to encourage the use of public transport and facilitate travel. First, he says, employers should reconsider parking subsidies linked to the pandemic. Companies provided free or subsidized parking to make returning to the office more attractive to those who wanted or needed to return.
And finally, ABC argues that Boston and other municipalities should speed up the reconfiguration of roads, to make more room for people to walk and cycle to work, and to create more dedicated bus lanes that would make the faster and more reliable service.