How the pandemic will change your commute (Hint: more cars)

I-270 traffic
According to the survey, 35% of future commuters plan to commute less, even after returning to work in person. (The Washington Post via Getty Im/The Washington Post)

Auto sales remain lower than a year ago, but those sales, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, rose in recent months as Americans swap public transportation for private transportation or plan for their return to work.

Despite Metrorail’s recent return to near-normal service, Metro ridership in Washington remains significantly lower. In June, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority reported average daily rail entries of 52,000, compared to 633,000 daily rail entries in June of last year.

Automotive marketplace reports 21% of the U.S. consumers it surveyed in August purchased cars in the last six months, and 57% of those said they did so because of the pandemic. found 62% of workers swapped public transportation for cars. And 60% of subway or commuter rail riders nationwide either have stopped riding or are riding less frequently.

When it comes to bus riders, 65% either stopped riding or are riding less frequently.

Almost half over everyone surveyed by — 43% — said they lack faith in fellow passengers to abide by health and safety protocols, while 57% only moderately trust other passengers.

“When they do finally return to the office, it won’t be via mass transit. Personal vehicles will dominate the work commute as distrust in public transport and ride-sharing continues,” said Matt Schmitz, assistant managing editor for

Uber reported second quarter mobility bookings were down 73% from a year ago. The company’s Uber Eats business was more than double what it was a year ago.

The survey found 49% believe it will be at least three months before their travel on mass transit returns to pre-COVID levels, and 7% said they will never resume their pre-VOVID mass transit levels. said 3,062 people responded to its survey from Aug. 13 to Aug. 14.

Jeff Clabaugh

Jeff Clabaugh has spent 20 years covering the Washington region's economy and financial markets for WTOP as part of a partnership with the Washington Business Journal, and officially joined the WTOP newsroom staff in January 2016.

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