Does an increase in remote work decrease traffic? Maybe not, BRAC says

Business Report

The share of Capital Region workers who work from home more than doubled from 2019 to 2021, according to U.S. census estimates. 

But while commuting to work may be down, the number of cars on the road is up, writes Jake Polansky with the Baton Rouge Area Chamber. 

“These figures show that, while work-from-home policies can help reduce the number of daily commuters, they won’t, in isolation, meaningfully reduce overall traffic in Baton Rouge,” he says. 

While counts were down in 2020, when pandemic-related concerns and restrictions were at a high point, there were more vehicles traveling through critical junctures in 2021 than in 2019, according to state figures Polansky cites:

  • Interstate 10 between College Drive and the I-10/I-12 split: up 4.5%.
  • I-10 between Bluebonnet Boulevard and Siegen Lane: up 4.5%.
  • Interstate 110 between Scotland Avenue and Harding Boulevard: up 4.5%.
  • Florida Boulevard between Lobdell Avenue and Airline Highway: up 0.5%.

Census estimates indicate more than 31,000 workers across the Baton Rouge area work from home, compared to 13,800 in 2019. While the pandemic played a big role in the shift, the number of people working from home in Baton Rouge already had increased by almost 50% from 2011 through 2019. 

New Orleans led Louisiana metros in the percentage of people working from home at 12.2%—compared to Baton Rouge’s 8.3%—well short of tech hubs like Austin (32.3%), San Francisco (35.1%) and Seattle (30.6%), not to mention Houston (15.5%) and Birmingham, Alabama (13.7%), Polansky says.

While it may not fix our traffic woes, workers highly value work-from-home flexibility. A McKinsey & Company survey last spring found the ability to work remotely was the third-most important thing for workers seeking a new job last spring, after pay and advancement opportunities.

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