A Little Extra Distant Work May Change Rush Hour a Lot


“Those who are most dependent are also the ones who are literally trying to make their dialysis appointments,” said Stephanie Gidigbi Jenkins, who works for the Natural Resources Defense Council on federal policy and serves on the board of directors of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority. “We totally forget who really depends most on our transit system.”

In Cleveland, at the beginning of the pandemic, the transportation authority suspended main downtown traffic and suspended express bus routes from suburban park-and-ride lanes. But it didn’t cut off service in neighborhoods where officials believed more workers, including hospital staff, had personal duties.

“Do we have the heart to say, after you have worked 12 hours to serve the community, that now when you go to your bus you have to wait almost an hour for the bus to pick you up?” Said Joel B. Freilich , Director of Service Management for the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority.

In 2019, the agency planned improvements to the off-peak service, which will be rolled out this month. The pandemic further confirmed for officials, Mr. Freilich said, that every hour is rush hour for someone.

In larger regional transport companies, these decisions are more difficult.

“In almost every transport company, in its policies, in its decision-making, there is this inevitable conflict between the interests of the suburban commuters who are trying to get out of the traffic jam, who are very focused on the problem of congestion, and then there is the interest of the people who travel all day, ”said Jarrett Walker, a traffic advisor who led planning for the changes in Cleveland.

But there are other ways to better balance everyone’s interests in a world where travel tips aren’t that sharp. Less congested city streets could mean faster bus travel, more space for cyclists, and more humane commuting for those who still drive.

What if all of this results in some lower-income transit drivers driving on roads that are no longer so terrible?