Americans still aren’t comfortable riding with other people

People are getting more comfortable shopping and hanging out as the delta surge dissipates, but transit, ridesharing and planes still make them uncomfortable.

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  • Ben Meyerson Newsletter editor
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Americans are getting more comfortable returning to activities like visiting friends, going to grocery stores and visiting restaurants as the delta surge wanes – but traveling to get there? People still don’t particularly want to do that with strangers, according to new data from the Ipsos Coronavirus Consumer Tracker.

Despite the delta variant of COVID-19 falling across most of the U.S., Americans say they’re less comfortable than they were a month ago riding buses, subways, taxis and flying – the only activities out of a dozen we asked about where more people said they were less than more comfortable. Three in ten Americans said they were less comfortable doing each of the four activities.

This has profound impacts as the slow trickle back to everyday life continues, said John Kiser, Ipsos senior vice president of Automotive and Mobility – especially in larger cities where public transportation and ridesharing are major options for commuting.

“This signals a slower comeback for shared transportation services, even as people go back to their old lives and working in-person again. If transportation methods aren’t distributed more evenly, that has big consequences for everyone,” Kiser said. “Less comfort taking public transportation means more drivers on the road during rush hour and less comfort flying could mean more road trips during the upcoming holiday season. We should all plan accordingly for the increased traffic congestion.”

People are even more comfortable going to their jobs than they are commuting – a trend that could mean trouble for traffic as more people return to work. Less than one in four Americans (23%) say they’re working mostly or completely from home, down from 34% when we asked in March of this year.

Office occupancy has sharply risen in major cities across the country – a trio of cities in Texas (Austin, Houston and Dallas) all have roughly half of workers back in the office, while Los Angeles, Chicago and New York have close to one in three people back in their offices, according to data from 10 cities monitored by Kastle Systems. And indeed, traffic is already building at rush hour in Chicago.

What comes next, of course, largely depends on the course of the pandemic – and how that plays out is anyone’s guess. But many of the activities where the most people are feeling comfortable are things that can be done outdoors, like dining (48% more comfortable), visiting a friend’s house (47%), or going to an outdoor event or a concert.

With winter on the horizon, it remains to be seen if people will lose comfort with these types of activities if things move inside – though still-strongly growing comfort levels with dining indoors (40%) are a positive signal. And 40% are getting more comfortable shopping indoors, as well – potentially a very good sign for the fast-approaching holiday shopping season.

For more on the return to commuting and shared transportation, join Kiser and Ipsos’ Frank Forkin for a free webinar Nov. 2, “Are we ready to share again?”

The author(s)

  • Ben Meyerson Newsletter editor

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