Transportation leaders discuss the future of the commute, push for continued work-from-home to ease traffic

BOSTON — Traffic was a big concern just a few months ago for the state’s transportation officials. Now, getting commuters back on the road and safely back on public transportation is the bigger issue.

During earlier discussions, more companies allowing workers to work from home was brought up as a way to ease congestion. At the time, it wasn’t eagerly received, but now of course it’s a more realistic and proven option for companies.

Secretary of Transportation Stephanie Pollack said during a virtual panel on the future of transportation Thursday, “Now that we have essentially half or more of our workforce successfully working from home, the question is how do we make that durable?”

It’s going to be a more frequent topic of future transportation conversations, Pollack said.

“So we really look forward to working with the chamber and other business groups and the employer community to see if we can take the learnings from this pandemic and really realize some of the benefits of increasing the work from home not just to relieve the pressure on the MBTA system but because there are a lot of other good reasons to do it," said Pollack.

Transportation officials said they realize that there are essential workers who are traveling now.

MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak said that most are on the Blue Line and on buses.

He said that they have spent about $30 mil since the middle of March on cleaning and PPE for workers. They also now do temperature checks on workers and have tested 900 employees for the coronavirus.

However, it will still take time for most commuters to feel safe to get back on the T and other forms of public transportation, including ride-share vehicles.

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