Judging from the responses from Boston.com readers, not everyone is “concerned” about their commute as they anticipate a return to in-person work when the COVID-19 pandemic tails off. But pretty much nobody likes the idea.
“I hate it, and it’s a huge waste of everything,” wrote one reader from Burlington. “My time, natural resources, [it] causes pollution, traffic delays for school buses, accelerates road wear, wears out a car, wastes my money, you name it.”
“It should not be this difficult or dispiriting to live in and around Boston,” echoed Hsiu-Hsien from Framingham. “Massachusetts’s infrastructure simply doesn’t match its reputation for innovation and forward-thinking solutions.”
Almost all of the close to 120 respondents to our survey echoed those remarks in their comments, with a sizable number mentioning a kind of existential dread at having to go back to the office after months or several years working remotely during the pandemic.
“Hoping to become fully remote,” wrote Ann M. from Beverly. “I don’t miss taking the train into Boston followed by a bus to Cambridge. It seems ridiculous to do it just for Zoom meetings there instead of at home.”
“Totally dreading going back to a 3- to 4-hour daily commute because of traffic, since we know most jobs can successfully be done remotely. What is the point, other than bodies in seats?” asked M. from the South Shore. “I can’t afford to live closer to my job, and I don’t like having to pay in time each day if I don’t actually have to. Three to four hours a day is not nothing.”
Of the respondents to the poll, about 20 percent said they were permanently remote, with 23 percent working fully in-person. About 22 percent are in a hybrid situation — some days home, some days in-office — and 34 percent say they’re remote now but will be expected to return soon, at least partially.
When asked if they were concerned about their commute (or commute-to-come), more than half were either “somewhat” (16%) or “very concerned” (38%); about 47% said they “were not at all” concerned.
But the responses to the question asking people how they feel about their commute to work were for the most part negative, possibly indicating that people who hate their commute are more likely to speak up about it, or perhaps that the people who aren’t concerned have simply given up hope.
“Toss a coin. It could be 40 minutes, it could be 90 each way,” wrote a frustrated reader from Lynn. “Anxiety!!” wrote Meaghan from Charlestown. “Traffic is at [its] all-time worst and after two years being at home, I don’t want to waste over two hours per day sitting in gridlock on 93.”
“My back often goes into chiropractic distress because of the time in the car,” wrote one reader from Essex County. “To make a recent deadline while working from home, I was able to work a lot more hours, a lot more easily, dealing with three meals in my own home, not wasting time commuting or showering every day.” (Yes, they said showering.)
Their concerns come on the heels of a Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce panel of large employers and transportation experts who all seemed to be of the opinion that the days of the five-day-a-week commute are passé.
“People will not come back five days a week,” said Monica Tibbits-Nutt, executive director for the 128 Business Council. “I never, ever see that happening ever. You will never be able to get employees. No one’s gonna want to do that … It will never happen, and I honestly am not sure that it should.”
Here’s how some Boston.com readers said they feel about their current or upcoming commute to work.
Responses have been edited for length and clarity.
It’s not so bad
“I walk 30 feet from my bedroom to my office/den. Commute time is 10 seconds.” — Chris, Scituate
“I will walk to work, so I’m looking forward to it.”
“Right now I am fully remote, although I could go in if I wanted to. My commute is about 30 minutes each way. I enjoy it because I can take public transit and use it as a bit of a transition moment between work and home (right now home feels more like my office than my home). However, I cannot imagine going back to doing it 5 days a week — I’d max out at 3. Getting the extra time in the morning and evening has been so helpful for keeping up with housework and errands.” — Molly, Somerville
“Live in Westminster, work in Wakefield. Forty-plus miles one way, each day, have no issue at all, have commuted from Central to Eastern Mass. for many years. Much prefer working at the office, architecture field, all your tools are at the office. Enjoy working in Boston area and getting away from it at the same time. More affordable living in Central.” — David, Westminster
“I take public transportation. My total commute is three hours, which is much more bearable with less people on the train, subway, and bus. In fact, when lockdown was on, I was just about the only person in the train car. Loved that! Could FINALLY read in peace. Three hours is a long commute, which I don’t like but have learned to tolerate. But what I cannot tolerate is being surrounded by annoying people for three hours.” — Mickey, Beverly
“I had the option of being fully remote but I actually enjoy getting out of the house so I chose a hybrid schedule, which allows me 2-3 days working from office and rest from home.” — Julio, Somerville
“Take the commuter rail to get into Boston. It’s fine, not crowded at all — except in the evening when they drop down to one car only. — Bridgewater
“It’s a quick hike (19 minutes or so) with minor traffic hiccups if I hit that 9 a.m. traffic, but I like being at work between 5:30 a.m. and 6 a.m. so I avoided that even pre-pandemic. I don’t mind it.” — DL, Arlington
“My company is currently offering flexibility with regards to either commuting to the office or working from home. I get the sense that our leadership would prefer that anyone who can do so should be in the office, but ultimately they defer to whatever our employees are comfortable with given the ongoing pandemic. I personally enjoy the creature comforts of the office, and my work-from-home situation is not ideal, as my office overlooks a busy and loud street. My office is less than 15 minutes from home even with traffic so it’s not a major burden.” — Bryan, East Boston
“I like working home on Fridays. I am also allowed to work from home on Wednesdays which give me a nice break halfway through the week. I do think that there is something lost in working from home. People become more anti-social and get wrapped up in conspiracy theories. It is good to have people together for socialization and team building. People work better to complete projects faster and more efficiently. Training at home can also be an issue, as some folks have no issues learning the job while others struggle. I think if the job allows it, [it’s good] to have a hybrid where a person can work from home a day or two a week, but still be coming to the office on other days.” — Anonymous
“I am an essential worker. Therefore I am expected to get to work. I am fine with coming to work. Though I am a little jealous of all the people working from home. It seems a little unfair. They get all the same salaries and benefits and don’t have to come to the office.” — JK, Pembroke
“I am so happy to be back in the office full time. My coworkers are my team and constitute a huge part of my social circle. Not being allowed to be near them was horrible!” — Matt, Wrentham
“The stress of making my commuting schedule fit with my child’s school hours, my husband’s work hours, and my employer’s workplace policies is often overwhelming. Driving to the office on a regular basis is a non-starter for me; 90 minutes of sitting in traffic on the turnpike each way is hell and deteriorates my mental health and morale, and I would need to leave the office even earlier than I already do to keep on time to my family’s evening schedules.
“I would love to live closer to Boston — not only for the sake of an easier commute, but to enjoy the restaurant scene, cultural events and offerings, and closer proximity to Chinatown to restock my pantry more easily. But the housing market pushed us out of the communities where that would be possible. I like Framingham as a residential area, but when I think about the trade-offs my family had to make to be able to afford to buy a house in combination with only difficult commuting options to choose from — then sometimes I want to scream … I think employers and businesses have a responsibility to engage in addressing the deeper issues around transportation, infrastructure, and housing that drive these inequities in the Greater Boston area.” — Hsiu-Hsien, Framingham
“I work in the Seaport, and the cost of parking is unreasonable. Not to mention the traffic takes up time when I could be home working. At least 75% of my job can be remotely done, with 25% in person meetings with clients and coworkers. The time I give when working from home is more of a 7 a.m.-8 p.m. availability via email and calls. If I go back to work they get me 9-5, and that’s it.” — JC, Somerville
“Constant battle, feel like getting burned on both ends — whether I drive to work or take the T, never seems to go right. Taking the T is the easier, faster way but there’s always annoying delays. Driving into work is lesser unknowns but such a mental grind.” — James, Quincy
“I take the MBTA bus and it’s very unreliable. Sometimes I’ll wait 20 minutes for the next bus to arrive and when it does there is another one on the same route directly behind it that should be staggered more. Other times I’ll wait for when it says it will arrive but it never does. I only live two miles from where I work and some days it takes an hour to get there.”
“Until elected officials start to really dig into the MBTA, their finances, and questionable business operations … I will not be hopping on board. The trains are also extremely decrepit, dirty and not safe.” — Dillon, Beverly
“Complete waste of time. A needless drain on productivity and a detriment to company efficiency and ultimately shareholder value.” — Neil, Boston
“I hate it and it is making me look for another job that is remote only. Can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube. Only people who want to go back are the people whose jobs are now irrelevant.” — Joe, New Bedford
“I hate it; it’s on the Franklin Commuter Rail Line, which is the absolute worst with so many stops. There is no good reason to spend over two hours of a day commuting when I can be at my desk at home and do the same, if not more, work.” — Jesse, Wrentham
“Horrible. The time off was not leveraged efficiently by the MBTA to fix and maintain. Buses fail to meet their scheduled time, and train cars smell like open sewers. I am looking to get a late ’70s-’80s beater car to drive in as that’s something I can control and not risk getting stabbed.”
“Drive on the SE Expressway coming from Foxboro. Takes 60 minutes leaving at 6:50 to get to Drydock Ave. Took the commuter rail for 20 years from Mansfield and will never get on the train again. Delays, bad switches, Broken Amtrak trains … When the commute hits 90 minutes I will give up working in the city and find a lower paying job in the burbs.” — Pete, Foxboro
“It is the most miserable time of my day. I would quit my job and start my own business if I had to commute five days a week.” — Tom, Milton
“The commute is tough — especially with children in daycare. My husband and I will have to alternate days in the office, and he will do daycare dropoff and I will do pickup. This means leaving my house at 5:45 a.m. when I go into the office and leaving at 4 p.m. to pick them up in time. It will take me 1.5 hours total for just my afternoon commute when I am working in the office. It’s a challenge because being in the office and around people is great, but when commuting takes up over two hours of your day, it’s hard to justify.” — Emily, Walpole
And finally, a poem by Kate from the South End
“Where do I begin….
parking is a nightmare
traffic is stressful
road conditions are awful
parking is impossible
public transportation is unreliable
Basically within the first few hours of being awake you are already annoyed at your day because of your commute.
Driving into and around the city is a constant nightmare no matter what day or time it is.”
Boston.com occasionally interacts with readers by conducting informal polls and surveys. These results should be read as an unscientific gauge of readers’ opinion.