MassBio’s 2022 Transportation Survey Finds 30% Increase in Commuters Driving Alone, 39% Decrease in People Taking Public Transportation After COVID-19

Dec 06, 2022

MBTA’s performance continues to negatively impact those who rely on it; commutes factoring into decisions regarding jobs and where to live

CAMBRIDGE, MA—December 7, 2022—The Massachusetts Biotechnology Council (MassBio®) today released an updated report on the state of transportation in Massachusetts, detailing the results of a survey of 1,338 professionals who work in or support the life sciences. Respondents say they are driving more and using public transportation less due to a lack of reliability and flexibility of the MBTA and Commuter Rail. Moreover, with one-third of the life sciences workforce who responded in the office every day without the flexibility of working from home, the impacts of long and stressful commutes could hurt the industry’s ability to recruit and retain talent. MassBio previously surveyed members about transportation and their commuting patterns in July 2019.

“The Massachusetts economy faces competition from lower cost states, and the results of this survey show that failing transportation infrastructure and fewer commuting options are impacting the life sciences industry and demand serious attention for policymakers,” said Kendalle Burlin O’Connell, President and incoming CEO of MassBio. “Much of our industry cannot work remotely and must commute to labs in urban centers.  When there are more workers sitting in traffic, it creates an environment with unhappy, unproductive commuters and jeopardizes the state’s goals of reducing emissions from the transportation sector. MassBio is working with our members to identify approaches to alleviating the commuting burdens on biotech workers. As an organization representing one of the largest and fastest growing industries in Massachusetts, we look forward to partnering with the new governor and her administration to develop and implement strategies that not only fix what is failing, but also plan for the future.”

The survey findings include:

  • Commuters are driving alone to work more and using public transit less
    • More than half of surveyed employees (57%) drive alone as their primary means of transportation; 44% of respondents to the 2019 survey said the same
    • Just 16% identified the bus/subway as their primary means of transportation with another 9% utilizing the Commuter Rail
      • In 2019, bus/subway was identified by 26% and the Commuter Rail by 15%
    • In explaining their choice to drive, 59% cite driving as faster than the alternatives, 40% say public transit is too unreliable, and 34% say public transit schedules do not work with their work schedule
  • One third of workers in the life sciences do not work from home
    • When asked how often they work from home, one-third of respondents (33%) said they do not work from home at all
    • Two-thirds of respondents (67%) work from home at least one day per week
      • In 2019, just 13% of survey employees worked from home one day per week and an additional 15% of respondents worked from home two or more days per week
    • 55% said they would consider changing jobs if it would provide a more flexible work-from-home policy
  • The performance of the MBTA continues to negatively impact those who rely on public transportation, though service has improved since 2019. In the past month:
    • 61% of riders have been late for work due to delays on public transportation (down from 79%)
    • 57% of riders have been late for personal commitments after work (down from 69%)
    • Over a third of riders (36%) have been forced to spend money on out-of-pocket alternatives such as ridesharing
  • More than a third of commuters say their commute is worse than pre-COVID
    • 35% describe their average commute as worse than prior to the COVID-19 pandemic
    • 49% report the same commute, while 16% say their commute has improved
  • Commutes are factoring into people’s decision to change jobs, move out of state
    • 50% of respondents said they would consider changing jobs if it would provide a better commute, down from 60% in 2019
    • 16% have considered moving to a different state within the last year to obtain a better commute, down from 23% in 2019

Download the full report.

MassBio’s Transportation Working Group is charged with identifying the key transportation-related challenges life sciences companies are facing, sharing what steps companies have taken or are considering to address these issues, and brainstorming internal policy and public policy changes that could help to alleviate some of these challenges.

In forming this working group, MassBio was intentional in including individuals with unique experiences and areas of expertise in order to foster creative solutions and innovative ideas. The working group includes representatives from both large and small life sciences companies; individuals from the Boston/Cambridge cluster and growing clusters across the state including Worcester, South Coast, Route 128, and North Shore; and the voices of research and development, manufacturing, incubators, real estate, and non-profits.

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