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Will the pandemic create a move back to the suburbs?

Published on July 14, 2020

A view of Seattle's typically busy freeways with very few vehicles, due to working from home and social distancing mandates.
Far fewer people are driving on Seattle's typically busy freeways due to working from home and social distancing mandates. Image Credit: Pxfuel. DMCA

We’re starting to get an understanding of just how much tax revenue the state is losing because of the pandemic. The latest numbers from the state Department of Transportation are staggering.

The pandemic has seen a cratering of traffic, not only on the roads, but on the ferries, at the Department of Licensing, and at the gas station. The state is coming up nearly $110 million short of its forecasts on the gas tax alone, and that’s just in the four months between February and May. Tolling revenues are expected to be down $107 million through next year. The ferries are losing nearly $10 million a month over projections.

The most important of those things is what the public is going to do. Will employees continue to telecommute? What will that look like? Will people only come in to the office one or two times a week? Will they stay in their cars? Will they return to transit?

Mark Hallenbeck, director of the Washington State Transportation Center and civil and environmental engineering lecturer, described it this way: “All the people that used to drive who became transit people because driving sucked and transit was great, suddenly they are like, ‘Why am I taking the bus? I could catch a disease, all these people around me have COVID or could have COVID so I’m going to go back to driving.’”

Hallenbeck wonders if this could spark the return of the move to the suburbs and away from the cities. Why not move to where you get a better yard and a bigger house for a cheaper price, if there is no longer a terrible commute as the trade-off?

“When I look at ‘I’m only going to work two days a week,’ does that mean those people are going to drive, or are they going to get on a bus?,” he asked.

Hallenbeck said the suburbs certainly look really good under this scenario.


Continue reading at MyNorthwest.

Originally written by Chris Sullivan for MyNorthwest.
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