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Studying How Remote Work Changed How People Travel – MIT News

By Peter Dizikes


The prevalence of remote work since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic has significantly changed urban transportation patterns in the U.S., according to new study led by MIT researchers.

The research finds significant variation between the effects of remote work on vehicle miles driven and on mass-transit ridership across the U.S.


“A 1 percent decrease in onsite workers leads to a roughly 1 percent reduction in [automobile] vehicle miles driven, but a 2.3 percent reduction in mass transit ridership,” says Yunhan Zheng SM ’21, PhD ’24, an MIT postdoc who is co-author of the study.


“This is one of the first studies that identifies the causal effect of remote work on vehicle miles traveled and transit ridership across the U.S.,” adds Jinhua Zhao, an MIT professor and another co-author of the paper.


By accounting for many of the nuances of the issue, across the lower 48 states and the District of Columbia as well as 217 metropolitan areas, the scholars believe they have arrived at a robust conclusion demonstrating the effects of working from home on larger mobility patterns.


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