In the wake of 2020’s tele-work boom, Sacramento commute times remain at a ten-year low  

Photograph by Fernando Vanzano

By Aya Mikbel and Grace Weber

Following the pandemic, Sacramento workers continue to be on the road less – many still working remotely – a trend that has shortened commutes, at least for the moment.

Before COVID, one-way travel time to work in the Sacramento region increased every year, with averages of 27.6 minutes in 2017, 28 minutes in 2018, and minutes 28.2 in 2019.

But as the pandemic led to a trend of more people working from home, traffic conditions have improved and commutes have shortened.

In 2021, one-way commutes to work in Sacramento took an average of 26.5 minutes, according to the United States Census Bureau. This is the least amount of time since 2014.

Also in 2021, Sacramento saw the highest amount of its workers working from home. In 2021, 23.3% of workers worked from home, compared to 5.5% in 2014. Average commute times increased slightly in 2022 to 26.8 minutes as more people returned to the office.

Sumaya Burhan, who works at the California Secretary of State as an analyst, said that Sacramento traffic is “fairly average and usually predictable.”

“I’ve noticed after returning back to the office in 2021 there were many positions in my office that were shifted to remote or hybrid that I feel resulted in making my commute easier” Burhan observed.

Mark Leavitt, public information officer for the California Highway Patrol South Sacramento

Area, attests to these improvements on local roadways.

“The pandemic allowed for teleworking by private and public sector employees, some of which have remained in place even after the pandemic,” Leavitt noted. “During the lockdowns, traffic was noticeably lighter due to the fact that only those deemed ‘essential workers’ were out driving.”

Tyler Nielsen, a pool deck supervisor and long-time Sacramento resident, has been commuting from his Arden home to work in Roseville for the last five years. At the height of the pandemic, Nielsen noticed a drastic decline in the amount of traffic. Post-COVID, Nielsen said his commute time “has stayed pretty much the same” but he now faces other issues on the road.

“I noticed construction really started to ramp up during the pandemic because there weren’t as many people on the road,” Nielsen said. “But it’s been a few years and there’s still projects going on 50 and now they’re starting one on 80.”

Nielsen added that his greatest frustration when commuting comes from construction and road closures. “If it’s a little bit of traffic it doesn’t bother me too much, it’s when I have to go different directions.”

Fox 40 reporter Julian Tack said that his commute has gotten worse post-COVID, and believes construction is largely to blame, calling the situation now “very unfortunate.”

“It feels like more of a trek than it actually is,” Tack remarked.

Drivers like Tack can expect increased commute times as more Sacramento workers are returning to in-office work.

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