Impact of COVID-19 on Commuting and Equitable Access to Jobs

Research Team: Joan Walker (lead), Mohamed Amine Bouzaghrane, and Johanna Zmud

UC Campus(es): UC Berkeley

Problem Statement: Work trips are critical to transit planning and help determine the corridors served and the levels of transit service available. During the COVID-19 pandemic many office employees were able to telework, while millions of others — largely people with low incomes, people of color, and essential workers — still commuted to jobs every day. While there are a plethora of studies regarding changes in commute patterns during the pandemic, there is considerable uncertainty as to the long-term structural shifts in commuting and what these changes mean for public transit systems and equitable access to jobs.

Project Description: This research quantifies changes in the transportation system and equity implications of emerging teleworking patterns since the onset of COVID-19. In its 2022 Equity Action Plan, the US Department of Transportation noted two critical gaps in equitable access to jobs: 1) travel time burden and 2) travel cost burden. The researchers will examine how the COVID-19 pandemic affected both measures for disadvantaged populations using the Consumer Expenditure Survey and the American Time Use Survey for 2019 and 2021. The researchers will quantify disparities in job access before and after COVID-19 and the factors influencing them through a thorough literature review, descriptive analyses, and qualitative interviews. Descriptive analysis will use data from multi-wave online surveys conducted by UC Berkeley and Resource Systems Group as well as passively tracked smartphone data across the United States. Qualitative interviews will be held with California public transit agencies and Metropolitan Planning Organizations regarding the implications of the changes in commuting due to COVID-19 on their operations and future investment decisions.

Status: In Progress

Budget: $80,000