Home News Dreaded Commute to the City Is Keeping Offices Mostly Empty

Dreaded Commute to the City Is Keeping Offices Mostly Empty

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It is not the office that workers heading to the city look down on. I’m commuting.

The COVID-19 Pandemic As more people work from home, remote work has skyrocketed and office towers have been emptied. According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau by the Wall Street Journal and analysis by building access company Kastle Systems, cities with long commute times suffered the most financial damage, but urban areas where people live closer to work go to offices. The return rate is high.

Recent salaryman polling supports the analysis. For example, in a Gallup survey last summer, 52% of people who want to work remotely say they avoid commuting as the number one reason they don’t want to go to the office. Other common reasons such as happiness and flexibility are also closely related to commuting.

“I think that’s the biggest factor,” said Richard Florida, a professor of business and urban studies at the University of Toronto. “Economists and psychologists have long said that long commute is the most dire condition of everyday life, so it makes sense that this is something people want to avoid.”

Employees who oppose commuting mean that landlords and cities seeking to replenish their office floors may need to do more than renovate old buildings or place police on the street corners. .. You may need to invest in housing, highways, public transport, and other infrastructure needed to reduce commute time.

Bringing back commuters is important for central business districts that rely on these workers to support bars, restaurants and other small businesses that invigorate these economies.

Interior of an office building in Midtown Manhattan. According to the Census Bureau, the New York metropolitan area had the longest average commute time before the pandemic.


The Wall Street Journal Jose A. Alvarado Jr.

Eight of the ten major cities with the lowest office occupancy during the pandemic had an average one-way commute of more than 30 minutes in 2019. On the other hand, six of the ten cities with the lowest office occupancy have lower average commute times. 30 minutes or more. The journal’s analysis covers 24 of the country’s largest metropolitan areas.

According to the Census Bureau, the average commute time in the New York metropolitan area was the longest before the pandemic, 37.7 minutes. It is also one of the lowest office occupancy rates in the country. According to Kastle, keycard swipes fell 62% from early 2020 to May 18, but averaged 57% in the largest cities in the country. Business for commuters closed Retail vacancies in Midtown Manhattan are skyrocketing.

In Minneapolis and Austin, where average commute times in 2019 were well below 30 minutes, the decline in occupancy was less than 40%. (See the attached chart.)

Crime and anxiety about using public transport also take into account how workers feel about returning to the office. The types of industries that dominate the city can also play a major role. For example, San Jose had a short average commute time in 2019, but office occupancy dropped significantly during the pandemic. This is partly because technology companies are trying to get their employees to work from home.

Commuting has long been unpopular, and economists say it reduces productivity. According to the Census Bureau, the average travel time to work in the United States increased from 25 minutes to 27.6 minutes between 2006 and 2019. David Schrank, senior research scientist at the Texas A & M Transportation Institute, said investment in new roads and public transport could not keep up with population growth and increased traffic demand, resulting in increased delays due to traffic congestion.

Millions of Americans have discovered during a pandemic that they can work remotely as productively. By 2020, troublesome commuting was “more than necessary tradition” for many workers, said Mark Dixon, CEO of Flexible Office Manager IWGPLC.

Eli Boufis, head of private equity at Chicago-based GoldenVision Capital Americas, said in a recent interview with job seekers that people living in the suburbs no longer want to commute to work every day.

“The first thing they ask is how often I have to be in the office,” he said.

Some former commuters say they can never imagine returning. For 15 years, Mark Schnermann left his home in New Jersey at 5:25 am on weekdays and boarded a train to Manhattan, where he worked as a real estate executive. Travel usually took 1 hour and 20 minutes, but on bad days it took two and a half hours.

“As the children grew up, they kept me away from being in their lives,” he said.

Currently, Mr. Schnarmann runs a franchise consulting business from his home and is no longer traveling to the city. He spends most of the year in a country house in Pennsylvania. It’s not the office itself that he hates. He said he missed the water cooler chat and friendship.

“A 10-minute commute would be fine,” he said. “But it’s not worth it to me.”

Morning commuter in London. Commuting has long been unpopular, and economists say it reduces productivity.


Jason Alden / Bloomberg News

The anti-commuting phenomenon is global, says Regus Dixon. Dixon manages approximately 3,500 offices in more than 120 countries. He said offices in small cities and suburbs are more substantial than commuting cities like Los Angeles and London. Even in big cities like Copenhagen, where there are many well-infrastructured and affordable homes, people can live close to work, resulting in high occupancy.

In the United States, lack of funding and rising costs make it difficult to invest in roads, rail and buses. The $ 1 trillion federal infrastructure funding program enacted in November is useful, but it’s probably just the beginning. On the other hand, now that rents are skyrocketing, red tape, rising labor and material costs, and soaring land prices are plagued home developers.

Florida at the University of Toronto hopes that the city will evolve from a pure business district to a more versatile area. He said more offices and conference rooms would open in residential areas and suburbs as fewer people go to the city center.A few Companies such as Hudson Bay Co. and Daybase are already trying to meet that demand by turning retail space in the suburbs into offices.

Empty offices in the city center can be replaced with apartment buildings. “The end result is a more balanced community,” Florida said. “But that’s a big deal, but the adjustments are painful.”

Share your thoughts

How much does your commute prevent you from returning to the office? Join the conversation below.

Write to Konrad Putzier at [email protected]

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