The transportation and commuting landscape looks very different today than it did six months ago. Employers may be tempted to reduce transit benefits during this time, but this would only compound the problems we are currently facing. Our transit system was the backbone of the pre-COVID-19 commute, and we must stay invested in its recovery–not only for the 100,000 daily trips still being served today but for those who will return to the system over the months ahead. Let’s take a look at the current landscape and how the commute may look beyond COVID-19 and how flexwork options can help support employees and the resiliency of our transit systems.

Current Transit Landscape

  • Traffic on I-5 through Seattle is steadily climbing back toward its 2019 baseline, with Friday, June 26 down only 13% compared to the previous year
  • Transit ridership around the city decreased by nearly 75% compared to last year, although it has slowly increased over the last several weeks
  • Sound Transit is running Link Light Rail on a reduced schedule, with 20-minute frequency during weekdays and 30-minutes for nights and weekends
  • Capacity limits were implemented or bus service causing reduced availability and frequency

For a full list of transit changes around the Seattle area, visit our COVID-19 Business Resources page.

What’s next for the commute? 

  • I-5 traffic is likely returning to pre-COVID baseline by end of summer, barring any delays to reopening 
  • Transit agencies will be forced to cut service in response to declining tax and fare revenue.
    • King County Metro’s fall service change calls for the cancellation of nearly 50 peak-hour commuter routes in the face of declining ridership and revenue
  • Transit capacity will continue to be reduced over the near-term due to social distancing requirements aboard vehicles
  • Teleworking and active commutes, walking and biking, will likely increase

The Telecommute Solution

Flexibility in how, or whether, people commute to the office will make a big difference in the future of Seattle’s traffic. Before COVID-19, teleworking was Seattle’s fastest-growing commute mode, but accounted for small numbers overall. On a typical day, about 6% of downtown workers telecommuted, while as many as 14% would telework at least once a week. 

Since COVID-19, however, hundreds of companies and thousands of workers were introduced to teleworking for the first time. In a recent Commute Seattle survey of over 400 Seattle businesses, 88% stated some or all of their workers were telecommuting. Encouragingly, 80% of companies said teleworking was generally going well or very well. These experiences may lead to a significant long-term boost in telecommuting that outlives the pandemic.

At Commute Seattle, we see telework as part of a larger suite of possible commute options that include flexible schedules and compressed workweeks. Together, these flexwork options allow workers to avoid peak commutes, either through skipping the trip entirely or moving them to a different time of day. Either way, the effect is less demand on the roadways and transit systems during the peak commutes. And best of all, these policies have been shown to boost employee satisfaction and productivity.

Our employer survey found only 40% of businesses have a formal telework policy. We believe it is important for businesses to formalize their telework and other flexwork policies now to prepare for these options as long term solutions to commuter challenges. Furthermore, there may be a need to revert to teleworking after a return to the office if the public health situation changes and COVID-19 makes a comeback. Locking in flexwork policies now is a great way to ensure a smooth transition and continuity of operations for such possible disruptions. 

We offer free assistance for businesses of any size that want to learn more about created customized flexwork policies. Contact us for more information!

We look forward to working with you.