Long Commutes in Seattle Fell Sharply During the Pandemic

The number of people commuting 20 minutes or more each way dropped by close to half a million, while short commutes rose slightly.

September 20, 2021, 9:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


Nick Beer / Shutterstock

New data shows that the number of workers with long commutes (more than 20 minutes each way) in the Seattle area dropped sharply during the pandemic, while "the number of people with short commutes actually increased a little." 

As reported by Gene Balk, Nielsen survey data shows "In the period from February 2020 to February 2021, about 318,000 workers age 21 and older in the Seattle metro area were not typically commuting," as compared with 125,000 in the prior year. "That pencils out to 193,000 fewer commuters just because of remote work. On top of that, the number of people in our area who were not employed, for whatever reason, increased by 74,000." In short, "100% of the net decline in commuting was due to those folks with commutes of 20 minutes or longer." Meanwhile, the number of short commutes, particularly those under ten minutes, increased slightly.

One explanation for this disparity is the correlation between average commute times and professions. "The data shows that, on average, people with shorter commutes are more likely to work jobs that could be categorized as 'blue collar' — and these were often jobs deemed essential during the pandemic (such as food service and grocery, transportation, delivery and retail)," jobs which typically do not have remote work options. "The data shows roughly half (49%) of the Seattle-area workforce with a job categorized as blue collar had a commute time of less than 20 minutes. In comparison, only about 37% of white-collar workers had commute times of less than 20 minutes."

Monday, September 13, 2021 in Seattle Times

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