Commute issues surface as offices reopen

Fewer people say they're planning to use public transit to get to work. Will the Bay Area see a traffic nightmare soon?

Video Transcript

- The Bay Area is going to face both old and new problems as companies develop plans to bring back workers to the office. Getting the economy back on track as part of Building a Better Bay Area. ABC 7 News reporter David Louie looks at a new poll of Bay Area residents and how they will likely bring back the traffic nightmares of pre-pandemic days.

DAVID LOUIE: As companies start to bring back office workers, new issues are expected to surface because of safety concerns. The Bay Area Council, supported by 350 employers, surveyed 1,000 people last month in English, Chinese, and Spanish, and discovered 51% consider working at the office is unsafe. An even higher number, 64%, believe public transit is unsafe. That's a red flag.

JIM WUNDERMAN: This region won't do well if folks aren't willing to get on transit. And according to the poll, they're not quite ready for that yet. And so we have to do a great job ensuring the safety of folks who are on transit.

DAVID LOUIE: If 6 foot distancing remains an accepted practice, that could take the mass out of mass transit. The council's poll also indicates traffic congestion could resurface. In the months ahead, 74% or three out of four commuters expect to go back to driving alone, which matches pre-pandemic patterns.

27% will walk or ride bikes. 20% will use public transit, but that's down from 29% pre-pandemic. And 19% will carpool, rideshare, or take taxis, a 31% drop pre-pandemic. Even with proposals for a hybrid work model, with workers splitting the week at home and at the office, a new strategy may be needed to manage commute traffic.

JIM WUNDERMAN: Metering when those folks come back so that not all they're on the same day so we don't have light traffic one day, but intolerable traffic another day is really important.

DAVID LOUIE: And who will decide what's best for companies and for employees? David Niu, whose company, TINYpulse, tracks workers' sentiment to guide executive leaders, says bosses will need to tread lightly.

DAVID NIU: What's my competition doing and what type of parity am I having? Because that is another benefit and, obviously, a big criteria as people think about where do they want to spend their talent and their hours.

DAVID LOUIE: Forecasting can be challenging. Attitudes can change quickly as a result of vaccinations and what options workers are given. David Louie, ABC 7 News.