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Impacts of remote work on vehicle miles traveled and transit ridership in the USA


The potential of remote work as a sustainable mobility solution has garnered attention, particularly due to its widespread adoption during the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic. Our study systematically examines the impacts of remote work on vehicle miles traveled and transit ridership in the USA from April 2020 to October 2022. Here we find that, using the prepandemic levels as the baselines, a mere 1% decrease in onsite workers corresponds to a 0.99% reduction in state-level vehicle miles traveled and a 2.26% drop in metropolitan statistical area-level transit ridership. Notably, a 10% decrease in onsite workers compared with the prepandemic level could yield a consequential annual reduction of 191.8 million metric tons (10%) in CO2 emissions from the transportation sector, alongside a substantial US$3.7 billion (26.7%) annual loss in transit fare revenues within the contiguous USA. These findings offer policymakers crucial insights into how different remote work policies can impact urban transport and environmental sustainability as remote work continues to persist.

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Fig. 1: Relationships between the recovery rate of onsite workers and the recovery rates of VMT and transit ridership.
Fig. 2: Effects of the recovery of onsite workers on the recovery rates of VMT and transit ridership over time.
Fig. 3: Marginal effect of remote work on the reduction of on-road CO2 emissions by state and that on the reduction of transit fare revenues by MSA.

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Data availability

The data used for this study are sourced from publicly available databases and detailed information about each variable’s source can be found in the ‘Data’ section of Methods. The compiled datasets can be accessed on GitHub at (ref. 61).

Code availability

The code used for conducting the analysis is accessible on GitHub at (ref. 61).


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This work is funded by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Energy Initiative and the Barr Foundation, and by the National Research Foundation (NRF), Prime Minister’s Office, Singapore, under its Campus for Research Excellence and Technological Enterprise (CREATE) program. The Mens, Manus, and Machina (M3S) is an interdisciplinary research group (IRG) of the Singapore MIT Alliance for Research and Technology (SMART) Centre. S.W. acknowledges the support from the Research Opportunity Seed Fund 2023 from the University of Florida. L.L. acknowledges the support from Beijing Social Science Foundation (20GLA003).

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Y.Z. contributed to conceptualization, methodology, data curation, modeling, visualization, formal analysis, result interpretation, writing—original draft and writing—review and editing. S.W. contributed to formal analysis, result interpretation and writing—review and editing. L.L. contributed to formal analysis and result interpretation. J.A. contributed to result interpretation, supervision, project administration and funding acquisition. J.Z. contributed to formal analysis, result interpretation, supervision, project administration and funding acquisition.

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Correspondence to Shenhao Wang.

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Nature Cities thanks Tao Tao, Sung Hoo Kim and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

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Zheng, Y., Wang, S., Liu, L. et al. Impacts of remote work on vehicle miles traveled and transit ridership in the USA. Nat Cities 1, 346–358 (2024).

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