Mesa and Phoenix commuters are seeing shorter drive times as the number of people working remotely has tripled over two years, a new study shows.
But they are not alone as national figures reveal many cities are experiencing lighter rush-hour traffic since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The findings of the CommercialCafe study, based on recently released U.S. Census data, show that the number of Americans working remotely has gone from 8.9 million in 2019 to 27.6 million in 2021.
The result has been a nationwide reduction in one-way travel time to work, from 27.6 minutes to 25.6 minutes – 4 minutes per round trip daily or 17 hours a year, the study found.
One of the biggest beneficiaries of the remote work movement is Mesa, which ranked eighth among large cities where commuters are saving the most commute time. Mesa comes in behind San Jose, Oakland, San Francisco, Long Beach and Los Angeles in California as well as Baltimore and Washington, DC.
Mesa commuters saved nearly 27 hours of commute time per year from 2019-21 with commuters in Phoenix, which came in 16th nationally, saving nearly 22 hours annually, the study found.
“Although remote work was not unheard of prior to the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns, the ample wave that rose in 2020 continues to ripple through the national workscape,” a CommercialCafe release stated.
Phoenix and Mesa have seen an increase in remote workers over the study period.
The number of remote workers in Phoenix grew from 53,390 in 2019 to more than 177,000 in 2021. Mesa had about 20,000 remote workers in 2019 and more than 50,000 in 2021, according to CommercialCafe.
The Maricopa Association of Governments’ earlier research supports the survey findings.
“Telecommuting and stay-at-home restrictions for the COVID-19 pandemic are having a noticeable impact on traffic,” a MAG release stated.
And this week, a MAG spokesperson said “even though congestion in our region is on its way up, the level of congestion was significantly lower than the pre-COVID level in the last two years.”
Telecommuting and stay-at-home restrictions early in the pandemic was evident on area roads, MAG found.
“As nonessential workers began telecommuting and people began staying home and off the roads, the overall traffic volume in the region was reduced by one-third during the first month of the pandemic. Daily congestion delay dropped by 50 percent,” MAG Executive Director Eric Anderson said in April 2020.
“This is likely the result of not only fewer people going to work, but a decrease in all trips, such as people taking their kids to school, going shopping, visiting friends, or driving to entertainment destinations.”
The CommercialCafe study pointed out that “although there is still some debate regarding a fully flexible future of work, the movement has so far brought certain undeniable benefits.”
“Whether it has to do with evolving energy costs, health concerns or investing that time toward more issues of personal value, cutting down on at least some of the previous commute time has been highly appreciated.”
For more on CommercialCafe, including its study methodology: https://www.commercialcafe.com/blog/us-commute-times-since-remote-work-2021-vs-2019/