The Future of the American Commute survey data, part one: health and safety first

The global pandemic caused by the emergence of COVID-19 has changed nearly everything about American life, both professionally and personally. The virus has been enormously disruptive to workplaces across a broad spectrum of industries and occupations.

As employers grapple with what it means to safely return their people back to the workplace, we at Scoop believe two things:

  1. Employee safety is the cornerstone of any return to workplace plan.
  2. The commute is a central consideration when it comes to employee safety.

Analyzing shifting commuter sentiment across the nation

In May 2020, the User Research Team at Scoop conducted two surveys of more than 10,000 commuters to better understand what the future of the American commute will look like. As commuter sentiment shifts dramatically, these studies are helping inform employers across the country in their return-to-workplace strategies.

In the first survey, we asked a nationally representative panel of over 10,000 individuals how their feelings and perceptions around different modes of commuting have changed since the emergence of COVID-19.

In the second survey of over 1,600 Scoop users, we asked similar questions on COVID-19’s impact on their current and future transportation usage habits. We took an additional deeper dive for this second survey, asking them about their daily commute habits, what factors matter to them in choosing how they commute, what other parts of their lives their commutes need to account for, and what aspects of how they commute to work add value and meaning to their days.

Today’s top employee commute concern: Personal health and physical safety

Sifting through the data, a clear narrative emerged: since the pandemic started, we as people and workers are far more concerned than we used to be about our health and physical safety when it comes to getting to and from work.

Physical safety was already a top concern for commuters before the emergence of COVID-19, and it only gained importance since, rising by about 13%. On the other hand, commuters in pre-COVID times said health was not especially important to them when considering their commute. That consideration has since risen dramatically, by over 30%, meaning health is now a top priority for the commute.

Some workers will choose to WFH or drive alone to the workplace—but what about the rest of your employees?

When asked to rank how risky they perceived various methods of commuting to be, commuters felt that driving alone and teleworking are the two safest options in today’s landscape. From a public health standpoint, these methods are two of the surest ways to maintain social distancing and avoid infection, but assuming that anyone can work remotely or have reliable access to a personal vehicle is neither realistic nor equitable. For the nearly third of Americans who lack access to a car and the nearly 50% of Scoop users in our surveys who had never before worked remotely, these are unlikely to be long-term solutions. Add to this that fewer than 1/3 of those surveyed agreed that driving alone is a cost-effective method of commuting.

We believe ensuring a safe commute may raise concerns of equity if employers are unable to ensure all their employees have safe and reliable ways to get to and from the workplace.

Addressing a safe, reliable, and equitable commute for all workers

Everyone deserves to have access to a safe, reliable, and affordable commute option. Owning a car or remote work privileges should not be a barrier to whether or not people can commute safely to the workplace.

As mentioned above, many workers in the United States don’t have a personal vehicle to rely on to get to work each day, and not everybody can work from home. According to industry research from the University of Chicago, only an estimated 37% of U.S. jobs are conducive to telework.

We must extend our options beyond public transportation, teleworking, and driving alone to work, considering that not everybody will be comfortable returning to mass transit in the near future.

Commute equity and carpooling: what’s the connection?

We at Scoop are working to help close this equity gap by enabling employers to provide safe, reliable, and convenient commute options to all of their employees. Commute equity—choice and access to fair and affordable transportation options—must be championed by all employers.

As more workers gear up to return to the workplace but do not have the ability to drive alone or use public transportation as reliable commute modes, we remain committed to health and safety.

In our surveys, carpooling was perceived as the safest shared mode of transportation. 85% of respondents said they felt carpooling was less risky than public transportation, 74% said it was less risky than ride-hail, and 68% said it was less risky than taking a company shuttle. They also tended to feel carpooling added substantial value because of its low cost and benefits to the environment.

Where can I learn more about Scoop’s national survey data and its implications for employees and employers alike?

These insights are just scratching the surface of what we’re starting to learn from the wealth of data we collected as part of our survey efforts. We’ve already shared some of them with commuters and employers as part of our Future of the American Commute series, and we’ll continue to do so on our Scoop blog in the weeks ahead.

We’re still learning the many ways COVID-19 will impact the way we live, work, and commute. Now more than ever, it’s the responsibility of employers across the country to implement a variety of commute options for their people so that all of us as workers have safe, accessible, and reliable commute options. As the United States continues to re-open, carpooling can play a key role in ensuring a safe and accessible commute is widely available as we all contemplate what it means to return to the workplace.

How prepared is your organization? Tools to help you analyze your return-to-workplace commute strategy

Don’t let the commute be an afterthought in your planning as your organization creates its return-to-workplace strategy. We’re here to help you assess your return-to-workplace commute readiness.

Our team at Scoop created a safe commute toolkit that includes a customizable transportation mode evaluation, return-to-workplace pulse survey, and manager’s discussion guide. These tools will provide you with data, employee sentiment, and transportation considerations to help craft your return-to-workplace commute plan.

If you’d like a copy of these assets or are interested in learning more about how you can incorporate a safe commute experience into your return-to-workplace plan, please reach out to

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