Pandemic likely to result in ‘major, long-term shifts’ in commuting patterns

11.24 | 25 October 2021 |

The RAC says the findings of a new survey suggest the typical Monday-to-Friday commute may be ‘gone for good’ as a result of the pandemic.

The survey was carried out for the annual RAC Report on Motoring, described as ‘the most comprehensive study of drivers’ views in the UK’.

The findings show that while 49% of drivers commuted five days a week before the pandemic, just 32% expect to in the future.

Nearly a third (30%) now expect to commute between one and four days a week – with the average number of commuting days dropping from four to three.

In addition, 19% of respondents expect to give up the commute by car altogether, while 12% who used to commute via other means – bus, train, tube, walk or bike – before the pandemic say they’ll continue to do so in the future. 

Rod Dennis, RAC data insight spokesman, said: “These figures paint a picture of how car use is likely to change as a direct result of the pandemic, with a reduction in the number of days a week drivers commute by car being one of the most striking findings. 

“Many drivers clearly expect that ‘hybrid working’ will become the norm which could have a profound effect on the overall volume of vehicles on the roads during the week – although whether it signals an end to congestion during peak hours is another matter.”

The RAC says the survey also highlights the importance drivers place on having access to a car, as the country finds ways of living with the coronavirus.

Some 82% of drivers this year said they would struggle without a car, the highest proportion recorded by the RAC since 2006, up from 79% last year and 74% in 2019. 

Drivers in rural areas are much more likely to say they are car-dependent (87% of drivers, compared to 77% of town and city dwellers). 

The RAC’s figures also suggest that ‘negative attitudes towards public transport among drivers might be hardening’. 

For the second year running fewer than half of drivers (46%) said they would use their cars less even if public transport was improved (compared to 59% just three years ago).

Just a fifth (22%) say they see public transport as an attractive alternative to taking the car.

Rod Dennis added: “What is one of the starkest findings from our report is around attitudes towards public transport.

“If the challenge faced by policymakers in getting drivers out of their cars before the pandemic was akin to trekking up a steep hill, our research suggests they now have a veritable mountain to climb.”



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