Analyzing Telework and Travel in California Before, During, and After the Pandemic

Research Team: Michael McNally (lead) and Rezwana Rafiq

UC Campus(es): UC Irvine

Problem Statement: The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted day-to-day business and triggered massive changes in travel behavior for work and other activities. Due to social distance and travel restrictions imposed during the pandemic, teleworking has become much more prominent: a survey estimated that between February and May 2020, over one-third of the American labor force switched from in-person work to telework. The Census Pulse Survey (2020-2021) reported that 40% of households in California indicated that at least one household member substituted in-person work with telework (compared to the US national average of 37%). The pandemic provides a unique opportunity to examine the potential impacts of teleworking on travel and measure the potential effectiveness of this work arrangement as a travel demand and environmental management tool.

Project Description: This project will investigate pandemic-related changes in teleworking and travel behavior in California. First, teleworking practices and other travel activity before the pandemic will be compared to changes that occurred over the first year of the pandemic from March 2020 to March 2021. Second, a comparison of travel between teleworkers and commuters will be made. Third, the relative impacts of telework on household travel in metropolitan and non-metropolitan areas will be assessed. Finally, changes in how vehicle miles traveled (VMT) are related to teleworking adoption will be addressed by developing a calculator that will allow a user to input county-level information on projected teleworking levels and to output estimated changes in VMT and greenhouse gas emissions.

Status: In Progress

Budget: $137,534