More Shifts in the Year of the Plague: Driving Plunged even as Mass Transit Ridership Collapsed

“L-shaped recovery” for mass transit. Per person, vehicle miles were already in long-term decline since 2003. Than came 2020.

By Wolf Richter for WOLF STREET.

Total motor vehicle travel on all roads and streets in the US – by private and commercial vehicles, including delivery vehicles, over-the-road trucks and rideshare vehicles – dropped by 13.2%, or by 430 billion vehicle miles driven, in the year 2020, by far the largest drop in the data going back to the 1990s, according to the Federal Highway Administration today:

The enormous shifts of the Pandemic.

This plunge was caused by the shift to working from home and learning from home, and by the acceleration of shopping online instead of driving to the mall, and by the massive unemployment crisis that further reduced commuting, and by the restrictions to socializing and driving to restaurants and bars and concerts and ballgames.

Total motor vehicle travel on all roads and streets in December 2020 fell by 10.3% from December 2019, which brought the total for the year to 2,830 billion vehicle miles driven, the lowest since 2001.

And the drop in 2020 makes the declines during the Great Recession, which had caused so much hand-wringing at the time, look minuscule. From the peak at the time in 2007 through the trough in 2011, over these four years, total miles driven dropped by only 2.6%.

The Federal Highway Administration obtains this data from numerous traffic counting sites that are scattered around the states and reported by the states.

The “L-shaped recovery” of mass transit.

The drop in vehicle miles in 2020 would have been a lot steeper if vacationers hadn’t switched from flying to driving; and if commuters hadn’t switched from mass transit to driving.

Many of the rail systems are still reporting declines in ridership of 80% or 90%. For example, the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system, whose network connects the East Bay and parts of Silicon Valley to San Francisco, reported that in January 2021, ridership at 1.045 million passengers, was still down 88.8% year-over-year, without much improvement in sight since the original plunge in April, making it a near-perfect example of an L-shaped recovery. Americans have wholesale abandoned mass transit systems:

By Category.

The biggest declines of miles driven occurred in urban areas as commutes got replaced by working from home or by not working at all. Note how little the situation has improved over the past six months:

Individuals drive less.

Total miles driven per person of driving age (people 16 years and older who are not institutionalized, such as in prisons, mental facilities, nursing homes, etc., per Census Bureau) had peaked in 2004 at 13,274 miles per year, and then went into a long decline, with a steep drop during the Great Recession that bottomed in 2012. After a shallow recovery came the Year of the Plague, when miles driven per person of driving age plunged to 10,870.

Note that this, in addition to personal vehicles, includes all commercial traffic, such as delivery vans, over the road trucks, and rideshare vehicles.

Over the decade or so before the Pandemic, there was a movement toward living in urban centers, along with a construction boom of apartment and condo towers in those urban centers. The idea was that these people, often younger people and empty nesters, would flock closer to where the action was, thereby eliminating often infernal commutes.

In addition, many companies, particularly tech companies, have had flexible work plans for years, where employees would work part of the time from home, and go to the office the rest of the time.

Increased use of car-pooling, given the expanded car-pool lanes and other benefits, might also have played a role in reducing vehicle miles driven per driving age person.

These trends would explain in part the long-term decline in per-capita vehicle miles since 2003. What came in 2020, however, provided some special effects.

Going forward, huge question marks hover over all the transportation assumptions that were taken for granted before the Pandemic, and that got scrambled during the Pandemic, including commutes by car that have been replaced by working from home; commutes by mass transit that have replaced by driving or by working from home, and the trend to city-center high-rise living that has now turned into the fabled Exodus.

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  87 comments for “More Shifts in the Year of the Plague: Driving Plunged even as Mass Transit Ridership Collapsed

  1. MonkeyBusiness says:

    Why would I want to take BART now? Last year, sometime around October, a homeless guy punched me on the shoulders with no reason.

    Perhaps I should trade that for sub zero temperatures in Texas!!!

    • JK says:

      I wouldn’t take public transit-period. Are you people nuts? Do you see what’s happening around you? This isn’t Europe though their situation has changed now with the refugee issues at the train stations.

      I’ve seen TV clips of guys all drugged up laying on the floor in a Bay Area station. How about all the attacks in NYC?

      I’ll drive in traffic, thank you very much.

      • Robert says:

        “I’ve seen TV clips of guys all drugged up laying on the floor in a Bay Area station. ”

        The homeless were sprawled out everywhere since my first visit in the mid 1990s. Unlike NYC, where they beat the homeless until they go away, San Fran adopted a gentler approach.

        What you observed is not signs of the apocalypse, just San Fran. They seem to like it that way.

        • wkevinw says:

          There were always the typical big-city “homeless-etc.” people in BART stations, but the frequency of any kind of real crime against average passengers was very low.

          There is now a lot of poverty in CA. A few decades ago it was the opposite.

          The slow drip drip drip of erosion of the society and economy is ongoing in the (once) Golden State.

    • Anthony A. says:

      Fortunately, no BART here in Texas and only subzero once every 30 years or so.

    • c1ue says:

      A significant reason why these people act badly is because they get no pushback.
      That kind of thing never happens in states where an action like that earns a good beating.
      I take public transport most of the time – just the other day an African American male was insulting Asians, then an African American mother and child.
      The entire bus of 15, admittedly mostly old or female, just sat there and took it. I had enough of his crap so told him off – he exited the bus after 2 stops.
      Humans are primates – just give them too much leeway and they start thinking they are something they are not.

  2. Cas127 says:

    One thought on mass transit…I am amazed at the extremely slow (to non existent) efforts to increase ventilation volumes on my local buses.

    Absent ventilation, you have a big steel box of stagnant shared air, in which people marinate for fairly lengthy periods.

    I wonder what other people’s experiences are around the country.

    Increased air flow/air exchange with outside would seem like such a common sense, achievable adaptation that it is mind boggling that more changes haven’t been made in nearly a year.

    • Helmut Beintner says:

      Common Sense is not that common.

    • MarMar says:

      That’s one thing that BART has done well. Even when the A/C isn’t working, the ventilation is apparently cycling out the entire volume of a car’s air every 75 seconds.

      But still little ridership.

      • Cas127 says:

        Is the BART change physically detectable?

        Even installing low draw fans and leaving bus doors open longer would be *something* but I have not even seen *that* locally.

    • Wisdom Seeker says:

      COVID changed a lot of people’s minds about the appropriate amount of interpersonal distance, shared air and so on.

      Like aircraft, Mass Transit will be a tougher sell for a lot of people until they demonstrate that they can keep the air clean enough not to generate cross-infections.

      Fortunately the bar for success in that regard isn’t that high, just change the air out every few minutes.

      This will do wonders to keep flu numbers down in years to come too.

  3. MiTurn says:

    “Total motor vehicle travel on all roads and streets in the US – by private and commercial vehicles, including over-the-road trucks and rideshare vehicles…”

    I presume this includes all those delivery vehicles bringing to homes all of those online purchases?

  4. Petunia says:

    I heard they shutdown the new Brightline train in West Palm Beach, FL for the covid crisis.

    I was recently in Austin, TX, they will be expanding their public transit, a train system, for which they have imposed an increase in property taxes. The number of toll roads there is very high, as is, the traffic.

    • josap says:

      Lightrail is expanding in three different directions at the moment. Ridership is down due to covid. The transit cops are cracking down on mask-wearing now and the stops are longer and keep the doors open. The cars are sprayed with the peroxide aerosol stuff at each end of the line. Each car is wiped down several times per run. Not sure what else they are doing.

      Now that I have had my second covid shot I will take light rail again, wearing a KN95 mask. The world is opening back up for us.

    • Anthony A. says:

      Mass transit in Texas has traditionally been the car or truck. Austin is turning into a California suburb.

      • Wolf Richter says:

        There are commuter rail systems in Dallas and Houston.

        • Lisa_Hooker says:

          Commuter rail systems are trains that take folks from where you aren’t to where you don’t want to go. I remember great commuter rail – until the government built expressways and bankrupted those rail companies. Now it appears that wasn’t a good long term plan.

    • Bobby Dale says:

      At the risk of being rude:
      Light rail=gentrification vector
      Toll roads are a tremendous benefit to society, the users pay, those who don’t use don’t pay, which is the opposite of mass transit in the US where everyone pays and few use.

      • doug says:

        Toll roads – neoliberal wet dream.
        ‘I can afford good roads, you plebes drive over there.’
        NO. Just stop. We all need good roads, and they are paid for with usage tax if the tax cutters have not reduced the gas tax in your area…

        • Cas127 says:

          “they are paid for with usage tax”

          Maybe…but I wonder why, if the gas tax=roads equation were really true, why the G has such a difficult time simply presenting and verifying this fact every year.

          Thick, convoluted government reports get generated and tossed unpublicized into unvisited archives and obscure corners of the internet.

          What is so hard about making clear cut, high profile annual certifications that tax A goes to promised service B?

          Unless, of course, the G wants the freedom to re-direct revenue at will, while creating misleading perceptions as to where all the tax revenue really goes.

          For all the energy the G expends in attempts to acquire more tax revenue, it puts very, very little work into publicizing/confirming exactly and specifically where that money ends up each year.

          As a general rule, government audits are a farcical nightmare.

        • Wisdom Seeker says:

          I’m with Cas127 on this. Road maintenance taxes can & should be separately accounted, much like Social Security … oh wait.

          Individual government functions SHOULD have discrete funding streams and budget processes. This would make the taxation debates a lot more transparent and real too… but then again, maybe obscuring the issue is part of the point, for the elites…

        • RagnarD says:

          @Doug
          Actually, Charlotte put in an Express lane system a year or so before covid, which I was against – exactly as you protest – but fact is it works great. When you don’t need to be “there” ASAP save ur $1.50 – $4.50 and go 20 – 40mph through the congested sections, but if you are in a hurry, you have no problem paying the extra $$. Excellent economics. You will see lots of folks in Benz and BMW in the slow lanes, and lots of Civics in the expresss, depending on individual needs at the moment.

      • c1ue says:

        The rents car guy in Miami told me that he has to pay up to $10, each way, to go to work if he takes the toll road. He has to take it in the am to get there in time; he takes the side roads after work because he can’t afford it going both ways.
        Toll roads are rentier bullshit and should be abolished.

        • RightNYer says:

          That’s why I bought a hybrid. Hybrids get to use those express lanes for free :)

      • Jdog says:

        The users of roads always pay, it is called gas tax.

  5. BuySome says:

    Take away all the substitution mileage and we get the real picture of what is going on besides Amazon getting richer. Normal year last couple of decades was about 5-6 K per annum. Bought new about Oct. 2018, was hitting near 10K mark going into Feb. 2020. (Bit high and never even went on any real trips..all local within 20 miles.) Had first vehicle service then and prepared for what was coming. As of now, haven’t even hit 13K. The service sticker says March or 17.K. I’m thinking that’s about two more years away because this whole approach has turned into a real bad joke that is not going to improve no matter how many vaccinations they can get done. Oh, yes…just dropped off the insurance check. Looks like I’m in the stimulus subsidy conveyance business to keep corporate America in good financial health. Got rope?

    • Ridgetop says:

      A bit off the subject. I went to buy some washable N95 face masks on line designed by an Israeli company. On Amazon they were $69 each (several sellers). I went to the company web site , they were $45 each and if I bought 3, they were $33 each (I know still not cheap), including shipping.
      I do this all the time, find a product on Amazon, then go to the manufacture web site and buy it typically for around the same price if not cheaper, including shipping.

      • timbers says:

        “I do this all the time, find a product on Amazon, then go to the manufacture web site and buy it typically for around the same price if not cheaper…”

        Me too! For me, Amazon is fading and no longer the best deal in town, just a shopping tool. More often, it’s re-sellers marking up product you get for better elsewhere. Maybe Amazon is coasting on it’s legacy loyalty.

        And when I see Amazon reduce it’s price on an item I am price tracking, like a blu ray, I know it’s because it’s pricing matching some else like for example Best Buy. Then I get it from Best Buy.

        • Javert Chip says:

          Timbers

          “…Amazon is fading and no longer the best deal in town, just a shopping tool… Maybe Amazon is coasting on it’s legacy loyalty…”

          o Amazon 2020 revenue up 37% over 2019
          o Amazon 2020 profit up 83% over 2019

          That’s your definition of “fading”? A few more years of that and Bezos will be dead broke!

        • timbers says:

          Javert, my definition of fading is what I said – Amazon is rarely the best deal. Others often sell with better price. I’m using Amazon less and less because of that.

        • Mark says:

          Hey – Have some concern for Bezos ….. How is he gonna pay for his Yellen-like $3000 “little emperor” outfits that he has custom made ?

          Though anyone who looks like a complete twerp will not be able to disguise it wearing that stuff and doing push-ups .

        • c1ue says:

          Amazin has never been about price – it has always been about convenience.
          Prime distinguishes the Americans who have money vs the ones who don’t.

        • Lisa_Hooker says:

          @c1ue – more specifically Prime is for people with pathetically distorted time preferences and more money than sense, sans true emergencies.

      • 2banana says:

        Amazon is usually never the least expensive.

        Sometimes overpriced by double or triple.

        You are paying for convenience.

        One click and all…

        • keppered says:

          We know better then to shop there and worst yet support them by association.

      • Willy2 says:

        – Interesting !!! Yes, Amazon is not the cheapest anymore. Because they want a cut from the producer of the item ordered.
        – I have done the same a 3 or 4 times with hotels. Find a decent hotel through a hotel booking site. Then find the telephone number of that hotel. And then call directly the hotel to make a reservation. That way I pay the same amount and the hotel is able to keep the money that otherwise will end up somewhere else.

  6. Nathan Dumbrowski says:

    Wonder what impact this is having on private toll-collectors?

  7. DR DOOM says:

    Rising oil prices are heading for $100. This will be a triple whammy. Oil price increase with less miles driven and less cat cracker bottom from refineries for ashphalt roads and the bonus of dissolving road surfaces that jar your teeth. This ain’t no way to run an Empire. It’s a good thing that Jerome says we have no inflation.

    • BuySome says:

      In these parts we don’t have to worry about dissolving roads. We’ve got some good ‘ol boys firms that get contracts to tear up perfectly good concrete roads and turn them into asphalt roller coasters with pot holes built in from the get-go. Just to spice life up, they usually toss out some big ole steel plates during the conversion with small unlighted signs that say “bump” (or was it bimp) about 2 feet away. There is nothing as fun as hitting your head on the roof of the car while your front end is being destroyed by the people who get your taxes. God bless their greedy little hearts. With more of their kind we could go bankrupt even faster.

    • Mark says:

      Yeah, but Jerome Bowell is inflating his own bank account – the richest Fed Chairman in history –

      $50 million and counting – winning

  8. Michael Grace says:

    “Get used to fewer trains” was a weird threat by the semi govt. body “Network Rail” in the UK yesterday issued by Sir Peter Hendy at the ” National Rail Recovery” conference.
    “The service does not run better if you put too many trains on the track. We’ve proved that” he said “……All of my experience is that people prefer reliability to journey time”
    20% reduction of commuter service is being considered when “normality” resumes

  9. 2banana says:

    Mass transit in many American cities, have become unsafe with the new social policies.

    Is it any wonder why folks don’t want to use it?

    • c1ue says:

      I don’t know what you’re talking about.
      Lockdowns and wfh means public transit is less crowded than ever.
      The need to take it is also less than ever.

    • Jdog says:

      It is a paradox. Mass transit is only desirable if it is safe and civilized, and yet urbanization causes people to be less civilized.

      • Marko says:

        Mass transit also benefits from the network effect. The more people that use it, the more frequent the service. With more frequent service, more people use it.

        I think when headways are below 10 minutes, people don’t bother looking at a schedule. They just turn up at the corner or platform.

        Decreased ridership along with funding constraints from local government could be a death knell for transit.

        I can’t imagine the Metra commuter rail in Chicago ever getting back to pre covid ridership.

  10. Dale says:

    I have a friend who is 85 and still driving 18-wheelers inter-regionally. He doesn’t need to, he has social security and a pension and savings / investments, but he likes the work (though his wife is increasingly determined to keep him at home soon).

    He must appreciate the emptier interstates.

    • fajensen says:

      Heh – My neighbour is 75 and a builder. He builds and renovates holiday cottages by himself.

      He is always on the go. Going out on a Sunday he said, while passing me on the drive: “I have talked to her long enough for today!”

      I believe most of these old working-by-choice guys, they will actually die within six month of sitting themselves down in their comfy “retirement chair”. As long as they keep moving, having a purpose, they will keep on living. My own dad had a lot of problems with his retirement being “empty” (and him being a grumpy old fart, refusing to join the local boat-club or something he would actually like to do, because some grudge or whatever, having a bright but inflexible, mind is *not* an asset!).

      I think the wife should go with your friend on the occasional trip instead of giving him “the chair”. Not often, he probably likes the solitude, but, once in a while I think could be an adventure of sorts.

      • VintageVNvet says:

        Some years ago, a friend, mid level manager, really ”retired”, intending to do as little as possible.
        After a few months of hanging around the house, no doubt bossing around his wife of about 40 years, his wife told him,
        “Honey, I married you for better or worse,,, but NOT for lunch.
        Get out there and find something to do!!”
        Your comment about six months is right on the money for several friends who decided ”just” to play golf or go fishing, and dead within that time frame.
        I am finally able to sit for a couple of hours and read on the net, but this is my third time trying,,, and already ready to drive out west again asap after 18 months.

  11. Paulo says:

    Interesting article and comments. The bright spot is that it is certainly better for the environment.

    We are also driving a lot less in our house. However, planning a road trip after vaccine…. with the Westie. Just a few tanks of gas to get us over the Rockies and on to Drumheller Alta and a visit to the Tyrell Dino museum. Camping along the Red Deer river, and camping to and fro. Solar showers or skinny dips with soap and shampoo. Steaks on the grill, sirius radio by the evening fire, glass of wine or maybe a Crown Royal, no schedule to keep with breakfast stops at small town cafes…coffee when we feel like it. Beats air travel to hell and back. Beats air travel forever. We just have to shoehorn it between garden harvest and fall salmon fishing. :-)

    I can only imagine how relaxing it would be to travel by clickety clack train across North America. Sleeper berth/compartment, restaurant car, no schedule to worry about. Does this even exist, anymore?

    The Pandemic has changed everything, imho. Commuting to work is a thing of nightmares on the news traffic reports. We did it for years and never again. People will choose to live closer to work, on transit access, or WFH. Maybe all three. Many might just take control of their time and lives. This is a good time to make changes. It won’t return to the way it was, imho.

    • josap says:

      A few years ago we traveled by train in Spain. We decided what city to see and reserved an apartment for a week or so after we arrived in a city. Just wandered around for about 6 weeks. Was wonderful.

      Some places we stayed a couple of nights, one we stayed at for 2 weeks. Old people with backpacks. LOL

      • Nick Danger says:

        Same here. 2 years ago we spent a month travelling all over Spain by rail and bus with a medium roller suitcase and a small expandable carry on. We’re in our very late 60s and had the time of our lives. Spanish rail ( especially the bullet trains ) are fabulous. The biggest surprise was the intercity busses. They were great!

      • WES says:

        About 12 years ago, my wife and I, plus 2 kids, 6 and 10 years, toured England by train. My wife wanted to drive like I had done (before losing my sight) but I knew she wouldn’t be able to handle the driving. We booked B&Bs as we went per no fixed schedule. We enjoyed the trip. Then we took the chunnel to Paris.

    • WES says:

      Paulo:

      Sounds like an interesting camping trip. Last year, my son was working for a month on the GE wind turbines around Drumheller. He took some nice pictures of the area. He also got in a Calgary Flames hockey game and skiing in Baniff.

      • keppered says:

        What does southern Alberta have to do with the rest of the world?
        Or in this case the article?
        I must still be behind the wolf?

    • eg says:

      “The Canadian” travels between Toronto and Vancouver and features sleeper cars.

  12. Dale says:

    So, how’s that Transit Oriented Development doing?
    Chicken or egg, do they build the highrises to enable ridership, or do they build the trains to enable the building of the highrises? Like the streetcar lines of old, that enabled the development of areas served, now we have farmland being paved to build TOD, even though every unit has a parking place and people mostly drive to distant jobs, pre-Covid. Now, it’s
    90% more driving. And yet the zonin overrides continue.

    Whatever the answer, New Jersey, the most corrupt building trades state in the union, has given us, state senator Scott Wiener,-ex officio S.F. bored of supervising, is doing his damnedest to get more and more building of hideous pastiche clown apartment buildings built statewide. His major donors? Developers of course.

    “Wiener’s SB50 is an aggressive override of local zoning rules. It would prohibit cities from restricting small and medium-size apartment buildings within a half-mile of rail stations and ferry terminals and within a quarter-mile of stops on bus lines with frequent service.”

    • Jos Oskam says:

      “…and within a quarter-mile of stops on bus lines with frequent service…”

      Well, that’s easy then. Pick a spot, arrange(1) for a bus stop in front, build whatever the heck you like, and afterward who cares what happens to the bus stop.

      (1) Just make someone in the bus company an offer they can’t refuse.

  13. Nacho Libre says:

    Does lower ridership really affect the bottom line by much?

    Most metro transportation companies around the country make huge operating losses every year. Passenger fares only cover about 25% of expenses.

    Perhaps now they cover 15%, meh!

    • Wolf Richter says:

      A drop of 90% in revenues?

      • keppered says:

        That would a be a boo hoo thank you property owners care to too let us steal from you again?
        Rinse and rinse & rinse before repeating.

      • Nacho Libre says:

        90% drop in ridership doesn’t translate to 90% drop in overall inflow for the metro.

        For a metro with fare box recovery ratio of 25%, only 25% of operating budget comes from the riders. Rest (75%) comes from taxes (riders, non riders).

        So even with a 90% drop in paying riders, metro would still have 77.5% of its inflow intact.

        Having said all that, BART has a relatively healthy fare box recovery ratio (around 65% in pre-pandemic years).

        • keppered says:

          I know not much can be done,
          as the thieves stand clearly in front of everyone guilty grossly smirking.
          At least you can spot the criminal.
          So can I.
          -K

        • Marko says:

          Illinois has a farebox recovery ratio rule, which requires transit agencies to pay for at least half of their operating budgets through ride fees.

          This is gonna be tough when no one is riding.

  14. DawnsEarlylight says:

    California looking like it’s really Fing itself! Unfortunately, the rest of the country usually follows California’s lead.

  15. Sam says:

    Footnotes from a war zone (PDX):
    1)Busses/lite rail cont. to have single hand (2x during commute) # of daily riders.
    2)Park & ride stations deserted.
    3)Parking lots density increasing (&restoring pre pandemic pricing), though little on street parking activity.
    4)City (Multnomah county/PDX city) roads continue to degrade w/exponential pothole growth (repair $hop$ loving that a$pect).
    5)Window protection(s) slowly being removed (The Scientologists were the first to open for biz/recruiting).
    6)Strip clubs parking lots fulling up. [random observations]
    7)Gyms experiencing return of patrons.
    8)The proliferation of tent cities bbq’s (w/multiples of propane tanks) is amazing. Especially along (and under) major freeway/highway arterials.

    Re B&M retail: Nordstrom (flagship) store had more associates (texting diligently) than customers. Quality of [men’s] merchandise seems upgrade TGT. Bye-bye.

    Happy Trails…..

  16. makruger says:

    I drove a lot less than usual last year. No out of state travel at all and my vacation was simply a quick day trip to Cape Cod. As for public transportation, clearly the pandemic took it’s toll there too. But if I lived in the city rather than the burbs, I would happily give up the car with all it’s expenses and take public transportation everywhere. Too bad there is so little political will to support the public transportation option.

    • Dave says:

      A friend of mine who has always loved city life is now looking in the burbs. Homelessness, crimes of opportunity, panhandling, vagrants, illegal drug markets etc. (and public transportation has almost all of these in spades) does not a pretty picture paint.

      If I was in the city I would be avoiding public transport as well.

      Europe is a different animal altogether in regards to public transport.

  17. Willy2 says:

    – And this came on top of an ageing US population. As the population ages more, more and more workers no longer have to commute from home to work in the morning and commute back from work back to home in the late afternoon.
    – It will be VERY interesting to see how many workers/employees will return to their old pattern of commuting every weekday between home and work when the COVID pandemic is over. “Working from home” is here to stay but to what extent. Are employers going force their employees to work 5 days per week in their old office ??? Or is working in an office for say 1, 2 or 3 days per week going to be the new normal.

  18. fajensen says:

    I haven’t been to the office for a year now. I got Corona from mid-Feb 2020 to March 2020, while I was down with that, the office issued work-from-home orders.

    They wanted me back this year, only I got Corona again in january and still have some cold-like symptoms coming an going. No one with any symptoms of anything are allowed at work

    For me, apart from 2 x 6 weeks of sick leave, this year has been Golden:

    Not having to go to “progress-” and “stakeholder-” meetings, I do some programming, stock trading, running every lunch, and on-line university classes. Sometimes I even work.

    The true power of being a symbol manipulator is that ones management cannot effectively track what one does, and as long as “the output” is adequate, no questions are asked.

    I am also working on setting up a little side-gig while working from home.

    The risk with the current situation is that Eventually, even if this is quite a while into the future, “the office” are going to figure out that 60% of what everyone does is bullshit work that doesn’t need doing. OTOH – shrinking of management fiefdoms and career paths are severely frowned upon.

    PS:
    This is a super-competitive private company. My brother has a similar role in the civil service and he is being worked ragged; they know who does what and why and for how much! “My business” is rather wealthy so they have other concerns (shareholders being the very last of them)!

    PPS:
    “Heard immunity” is eugenicists bullshit and if one is in a country where the fuckers in charge keeps feeding the virus in the quest for it, variants are going to arise and fuck people over repeatedly!

    • Sam says:

      Bravo!

    • joe2 says:

      What you describe is more common than you seem to suspect.
      “Pretend to work and pretend to get paid.” (old USSR joke)
      Do useless things and get paid in useless fiat. Paid more useless fiat for managing useless things.
      Somewhere there have to be intelligent barbarians.

  19. Tom18 says:

    Just back to the frozen tundra.
    Drove to florida. Light traffic for most of the trip. Our driving is up. Hard to work from home with excavation equipment.

    I suppose the day will come when AI will will take care of the driving and digging, and maintenance and repair.
    Then I can WFB.

    • David Hall says:

      Goldman Sachs does not like the working from home experiment. They plan to recall employees to their desks.

      If the government vaccinates the oldest half of the population, that will reduce the most hospitalizations.

  20. Mike T. says:

    Who needs to trade their private in when they aren’t doing the annual mileage? Will auto sales fall in the year ahead?

    Why lease a vehicle if it”s sitting in your drive 5 days a week, factor in rising i-rates and lease costs will jump. Maybe leasing will no longer be an attractive option.

  21. joe2 says:

    Ya know, one of the things I liked about living outside of the US, both in Europe and Asia, was that you did not live “at home”. You ran out in your PJs to buy fish from the truck that passed through the neighborhood at 1100. You walked to the open air market to buy everything else. You went to the market at 0600 to buy the stuff to cook for breakfast. You ate in little hole in the wall places for $2-3. You met your friends in outdoor coffee shops and talked for hours. Or small bars. You went to karaoke and drank and sang until the wee hours. You browsed through huge malls for hours. You went out dancing and drinking. You were not at home much and did not need much of a home.
    You lived outside in the real world. Not in your hovel watching politically approved crap on your TV.
    So, I don’t feel sorry for people that have to drive to buy milk. Or don’t drive or use public transport and work at home. And sit at home scared.
    You voted for it, you got it.
    Before the US people rag me, yeah, you cannot do that in the US or you will get shot or mugged, but in lots of places in the world there is no problem.
    In the US, who has taken over the places where this used to be possible?

  22. Jdog says:

    This past year of self isolation has changed the public psyche. People are now more home oriented, and do not feel as if they have to always go somewhere else to get what need.
    Over the past year people have learned to cook, and discovered just how much money they wasted eating out. They have discovered they do not need to go to the movies twice a week or go in debt to travel on every holiday.
    Covid for good or bad, has changed peoples basic habits, and that is something that will effect behavior long after Covid is forgotten…

  23. This is another arrow in the quiver for lower used car prices in the months ahead. While I could see dealers and resellers holding firm on prices in the second half of 2020 to try to maximize margins on lower sales volumes, anyone with half a practical side is not going to need to replace a perfectly good vehicle as soon as was necessary years ago when miles driven per year were 13,000 to 15,000. Newer vehicles are easily capable of going 150,000 to 200,000 miles before the dreaded Engine or Transmission Replacement words come up.

    Now those who must have newer bells and whistles and are fatally lured by the Siren Call of Uber-Cheap Money have taken on more and more debt of late to ride on the wild side. A percentage of those vehicles will come back into the marketplace in 2021, stay tuned.

    There is a cost to all of the thousands and thousands of used rental vehicles sitting in arid plains and parking lots throughout the country. Scotty did not miraculously beam them aboard the Enterprise to send them to Venus. They have to be insured against vandalism and theft, and if it is financial institutions that own them via the beloved repo process, then it is a ton of non-earning assets to boot.

    I will bet money that it will be the proud-owner financial institutions that take the bull by the horns (no pun) and push these non-performing assets into the used vehicle supply chain in 2021. Remember, they are holding lots of other non-performing assets like commercial mortgages, rental property mortgages, and many small business loans.

    It is kind of like holding your breath under 10 foot of water. EVENTUALLY YOU HAVE TO COME UP TO THE SURFACE.

  24. Shiloh1 says:

    METRA commuter railcars in west Chicago burbs are consistently 90% empty.

  25. Michael Earussi says:

    As soon as cheap automated taxis become common mass transit will die.

  26. Swamp Creature says:

    I check my odometer readings to compute the miles driven in 2020. It went from 15,000 in the previous years to 6,000 this past year. The traffic has been lighter during this pandemic, maybe one of the few positives.

  27. NotMe says:

    BART: It is not the bad air, it is physical contact, sharing seat formerly sat in by homeless …

    It is lice being flicked off of clothing by homeless into other passengers while grinning. It is a general sense of filth. You feel like you are entering a homeless encampment and about to share various diseases. On the Muni it is puddles on the floor.

    It is the lack of safety where platforms are open to passengers falling in accidentally. It seems that at least once a month BART was shut down by passengers leaving the platform. Look at Dubai and other subways where platforms are protected by automatic barrier doors.

    In NY it is people standing on platforms shoved in front of trains.

    It is simply an unhealthy environment.

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