Telecommuting and Travel during COVID-19: An Exploratory Analysis across Different Population Geographies in the U.S.A.

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

place - north america, place - urban, place - rural, land use - impacts, ridership - behaviour


COVID-19 pandemic, urban, rural, telecommuting, working from home, travel, VMT, cluster analysis, big data


This study explores the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on telecommuting (working from home) and travel during the first year of the pandemic in the U.S.A. (from March 2020 to March 2021), with a particular focus on examining the variation in impact across different U.S. geographies. We divided 50 U.S. states into several clusters based on their geographic and telecommuting characteristics. Using K-means clustering, we identified four clusters comprising 6 small urban states, 8 large urban states, 18 urban–rural mixed states, and 17 rural states. Combining data from multiple sources, we observed that nearly one-third of the U.S. workforce worked from home during the pandemic, which was six times higher than the pre-pandemic period, and that these fractions varied across the clusters. More people worked from home in urban states compared with rural states. As well as telecommuting, we examined several activity travel trends across these clusters: reduction in the number of activity visits; changes in the number of trips and vehicle-miles traveled; and mode usage. Our analysis showed there was a greater reduction in the number of workplace and nonworkplace visits in urban states compared with rural states. The number of trips in all distance categories decreased except for long-distance trips, which increased during the summer and fall of 2020. The changes in overall mode usage frequency were similar across urban and rural states with a large drop in ride-hailing and transit use. This comprehensive study can provide a better understanding of the regional variation in the impact of the pandemic on telecommuting and travel, which can facilitate informed decision-making.


Permission to publish the abstract has been given by SAGE, copyright remains with them.