COVID-19 Check-in Survey III Results

If you wish to comment on the transportation issues raised by the survey, please do so on this new thread.

Key Takeaways

  • At least in this sample, neither MBTA ridership nor road traffic (including all road modes — auto, bike, walk) is likely to soon rebound to pre-COVID-19 levels, even after businesses reopen. The shift to working from home will keep traffic down in all modes and safety concerns will additionally depress MBTA ridership. Working from home is the dominant factor and will keep road traffic down even as some MBTA riders shift to driving.
  • Support for social distancing remains strong — 54% feel that the phased reopening is going at the right pace, 39% feel we are reopening too fast and 6% feel we should be opening faster.

Summary of Survey

  • A total of 1,737 people responded within approximately 24 hours to an email and Facebook survey initiated on the afternoon of Tuesday, May 26. The survey questionnaire appears here.
  • Support for social distancing remains strong — 54% feel that the phased reopening is going at the right pace, 39% feel we are reopening too fast and 6% feel we should be opening faster.
  • In this sample, 30% are concerned about their financial security currently or over the next few months.
  • Currently, in this sample, 10% are unemployed and 58% are working from home.
  • Among regular MBTA riders (at least one day per week) before COVID-19, 61% now say they are “too concerned about disease transmission to ride the MBTA, at least until doctors develop vaccines or better treatments for COVID.”
  • Among regular MBTA rirders (at least one day per week) before COVID-19, 75% say their MBTA use is likely to “stay down at least until a vaccine or treatment is developed.”

The following chart shows how in this sample, continued working from home and concerns about MBTA safety are likely to keep both traffic and MBTA ridership down.

People within total sample of 1,737 who are leaving home for work before, during shutdown, and in the months after reopening — by actual and expected MBTA use level (less than one day per week, one or two days per week, more than two days per week).

The blue bottom area of each bar represents non-MBTA commuters. The overall level of expected non-MBTA commuting is expected to be down in the coming months, even with some shift from MBTA to non-MBTA commuting. The grey area in each bar represents the most regular MBTA users (more than 2 days per week); this group remains much smaller in the after-shutdown period. The after-shutdown time frame in the survey was worded as “after businesses reopen, but before the discovery of a vaccine or treatment for COVID-19”.

The results are broadly consistent with recent statewide polling and national polling as to distancing attitudes. As to ridership and commuting changes, the poll is broadly consistent with a recent statewide poll by MassInc.

Survey Process and Sample

The survey outreach was almost identical to that of our March and April surveys – including direct email, news group email and Facebook, reaching people mostly in my Belmont/Watertown/Boston district. The email distribution was slightly smaller reflecting an update of our voter/resident list and deletion of people who may have moved away.

Email delivery started at approximately 4PM on Tuesday afternoon, May 26, 2020 and the Facebook post went up about the same time. Email delivery was complete at approximately 9PM on the same day and the survey was closed 24 hours later at 9PM on Wednesday, May 27. There were no major changes of social distancing policies in Massachusetts while the survey was open. In the sample of 1,757, there were 20 instances of 2 submissions from the same browser/IP combination in under ten minutes, likely dups. Only the second of these submissions were included in the final sample, yielding 1,737.

As discussed in connection with the the March and April surveys, “the outreach heavily targeted people who are engaged in their local community. It should be added that the outreach would especially favor those interested in online discussion of issues, especially issues of state policy.” These engaged people were sent an email which did indicate that the survey related to transportation and COVID-19. The Facebook post more explicitly indicated an interest in how COVID-19 impacted transit ridership, but the Facebook post got very limited response.

The overall response (1,737) was below the April survey (2,662) which was below the March survey (3,259). The declining response may indicate that people are getting a little tired of COVID news and discussion, but may also reflect weather and the slightly smaller distribution.

The age and geographic distribution was similar to the previous surveys.

Age of Respondents (self-reported)

24 or Under131%
25 to 64115266%
65 or over57233%
TOTAL1737100%

Zip code of Respondents (self-reported)

02115 (East Fenway)624%
02116 (Back Bay)875%
02134 (Allston)453%
02135 (Brighton)28216%
02215 (West Fenway)654%
02472 (Watertown)41524%
02478 (Belmont)52430%
All other25715%
TOTAL1737100%

Results

Question 1: View of Massachusetts’ COVID-19 response so far

The pace is right at this time.94755%
We need to reopen faster.1076%
We are opening too fast.68339%
TOTAL1737100%

Question 2: Economic Situation

Cannot pay bills due now.261%
OK now, but concerned about the next few months.50329%
Secure for at least the next year.120870%
TOTAL1737100%

Question 3: Current Work Status

Leaving the home to work.1438%
Retired, partner works, other.40523%
Unemployed.17510%
Working mostly at home.101458%
1737100%

Commuting Status before COVID-19, during shutdown, and expected “after businesses reopen, but before the discovery of a vaccine or treatment for COVID-19”

BeforeDuringAfter
Not working452580450
Working outside the home1070143562
Working from home2151014725
Total173717371737

MBTA Use level before COVID-19, during shutdown, and expected “after businesses reopen, but before the discovery of a vaccine or treatment for COVID-19”

MBTA UseBeforeDuringAfter
Less than one day per week99916891464
One to two days per week22527167
More than two days per week51321106
Total173717371737

MBTA Use among those working outside the home before COVID-19, during shutdown, and expected “after businesses reopen, but before the discovery of a vaccine or treatment for COVID-19”

MBTA UseBeforeDuringAfter
Less than one day per week543129403
One to two days per week108268
More than two days per week4191291
Total1070143562

Perception of MBTA safety among those who were riding the MBTA at least 1 day per week prior to COVID-19.

Concerned about disease transmission on the MBTA, but can take adequate personal precautions.26236%
Too concerned about disease transmission to ride the MBTA, at least until doctors develop vaccines or better treatments for COVID.45361%
Not concerned about disease transmission on the MBTA.233%
Total738100%

Summary statement of expected MBTA use change among those who were riding the MBTA at least 1 day per week prior to COVID-19.

No response61%
Is likely to stay down at least until a vaccine or treatment is developed55375%
Has not changed193%
Is down temporarily, but will rebound as businesses reopen.16022%
Total738100%

Data Availability

The underlying anonymous data and detail tabulations can be downloaded in spreadsheet form here.

The comments posted below begin with comments that people made after having taken the survey but before the posting of the results at 9:20PM on May 28.

Published by Will Brownsberger

Will Brownsberger is State Senator from the Second Suffolk and Middlesex District.

Join the Conversation

156 Comments

  1. Unfortunately, public transportation is one of the main sources of infection, along with offices and restaurants. Anywhere that there are high numbers of people close together in an enclosed space for prolonged periods of time is risky.

  2. I strongly support public transportation.

    I am fortunate that if I do start working in my office again I will be able to walk—it is about 2.5 miles, but I will walk or cycle rather than taking the T most of the way.

    I expect many of my colleagues will not have the option of alternative means of getting to work and will take public transportation.

  3. The entire response to Covid-19 has been overblown. And wrong.

    Reactions have, in fact, been insane. The ensuing fallout will cripple Americans for years/decades to come.

    The virus was like the flu with a few more deaths, concentrated mostly in the cohort of the elderly/compromised-immune-system clusters. The “data” has been mostly politically-driven, truth censored by social media owners with biases.

    Fauci blew it with AIDS, saying gays and straights would die in equal numbers. They didn’t. Now he’s in bed with pro-China WHO. Tedros, its head, is not a physician. Plus he lied about cholera in his native Ethiopia so tourism wouldn’t suffer, thought its people…and visitors…would.

    The proper response would have been to quarantine the elderly and those with damaged immune systems (cancer patients, etc.). All others should have lived life normally, building resistance normally by interacting. Isolating, in fact, WEAKENS our immune systems.

    People wonder how 1933-45 Germans could have been so easily led astray. We’ve just seen how.

    Most masks were too porous to keep out viruses (much smaller than bacteria). Plus Covid-19 does NOT live long (if at all!) on surfaces. Gloves, too, are useless once they touch something. Look how often gloves are changed in dental clinics, places already covered in blue-tape!

    I don’t blame citizens or leaders for being spooked. I blame them both for being ascientific and repeating disproven nonsense.

    Again, the economic fallout will shock people. Meanwhile, our enemies marvel at how easily America…which defeated the combined might of Germany-Italy-Japan… destroyed itself over cold symptoms.

    Insane!

    1. I’m sure you won’t be back to read this, but you’re 100% wrong. It is not “like the flu with a few more deaths”. Almost nobody is immune to SARS-CoV-2, which means that at least 10x as many people will be infected. On top of that, the fatality rate is ~5-10x that of the flu, and another large percentage of patients have very serious disease. Isolating does not “weaken our immune system” (I’m an immunologist). Yes, isolating means that we don’t get the chance to develop immunity, but the chance to develop immunity comes with a significant chance to die! I’ll wait for the vaccine, thanks.

    2. The virus was like the flu with a few more deaths,

      This is a lie.

      concentrated mostly in the cohort of the elderly/compromised-immune-system clusters.

      1) Elderly people and other people with comorbidities are just as valuable as everyone else in our society, Or, at least, that’s what people who aren’t monsters think.

      2) Many people who are young and healthy are dying or suffering permanent health effects from the virus. It is simply a lie to claim that it only affects the elderly and people with comorbidities.

      The “data” has been mostly politically-driven, truth censored by social media owners with biases.

      This is a lie.

      …irrelevant right-wing propaganda omitted and ignored…

      All others should have lived life normally, building resistance normally by interacting. Isolating, in fact, WEAKENS our immune systems.

      This is incorrect.

      People wonder how 1933-45 Germans could have been so easily led astray. We’ve just seen how.

      I see. So, in your worldview, the “Nazis” are the people trying to save lives? Is that right?

      You know, as opposed to the people who thought elderly, chronically ill, and developmentally disabled people were a drain on society and exterminated them in mobile gas chambers?

      Most masks were too porous to keep out viruses (much smaller than bacteria).

      Masks are primarily intended to keep the droplets in people’s exhalations from infecting others. We wear masks primarily to protect the people around us, not ourselves. I can see why this might be a difficult concept for you to grasp.

      Plus Covid-19 does NOT live long (if at all!) on surfaces.

      We don’t yet know how long Covid-19 survives on surfaces, but it does for at least some period of time, especially in droplets.

      Gloves, too, are useless once they touch something.

      This is not correct.

      I don’t blame citizens or leaders for being spooked. I blame them both for being ascientific and repeating disproven nonsense.

      Pot. Kettle. Black.

      Meanwhile, our enemies marvel at how easily America…which defeated the combined might of Germany-Italy-Japan… destroyed itself over cold symptoms.

      The only thing the rest of the world is marveling at right now is how the United States has mustered one of the worst responses to Covid-19 on the planet.

      Our enemies are laughing at us. Our friends are pitying us.

      1. Jonathan Kamens, thank you so much for fighting the good fight. You are speaking the truth.

  4. > “This is not a situation where a lapse in judgement could…could cost a life.”

    Or not.

  5. Some Boston universities are planning to resume in-classroom teaching in September 2020. This is not safe. Viral partials are released by normal breathing, at a low rate, but, still, by mid-morning classrooms will have viral particles suspended in the air, falling by gravity but continuously replaced by new exhalation. Classes should be online and in-class teaching should wait for the vaccine.

  6. Although I plan to use the T for commuting to work, I plan to phase in the number of days I go to work and also plan to change when I commute. I will no longer commute at peak times. In addition to all that, I will take all recommended personal safety measures and perhaps more. Since I am assuming that it will take 12 months or longer to find and deliver an effective vaccine, my answer to the survey as to frequency of using the T applies to the many months between (hopefully) a manageable COVID environment and when I am able to use that vaccine.

  7. Even though I don’t use MBTA much, when I need it, I really need it. I feel it is very important to have that option and strongly support fully funding a safe and functional mbta. I also feel it is safer than taking an uber, lyft or taxi, because a car is a smaller, enclosed, less ventilated space and drivers are in contact with many people so they are at greater risk.

  8. I’m also highly supportive of public transportation. I did not use the T to commute to work but used it as often as possible on weekends. I’d be willing to pay more in taxes to modernize and upgrade the T.

  9. I have to take the 70 / 71 in order to get to work as I don’t own a car. (Commuting from Watertown to Cambridge.) Because of this, I will most likely have to keep working from home as my other coworkers start to transition back to the office. I don’t want to put the people I work closely with at risk due to my own exposure to people on public transit.

    It’s honestly awful. I live alone, I don’t have any pets, and I don’t have any family in the area to quarantine with. Working from home has been a constant struggle and I am fighting with my own depression and anxiety. I don’t like what the future holds.

  10. I love the MBTA, I fully support public transportation. I always take it to go downtown. Unfortunately, it is not a convenient option for me to get to work. For that reason only I don’t use it to commute to work.
    Thank you for your continued support of public transportation.

  11. I never use public transport since I work in the suburbs, but I wanted to note that I am a strong supporter of this form of transport and am happy to pay taxes in support of it

  12. I hope the MBTA will be able to find a non chemical way to disinfect the train cars between passengers such as Ultraviolet light that the NY subway uses. Inhaling bleach every day is extremely damaging yo lung tissues. This Covid19 is a lung disease so methods of protecting our mucous membranes and respiratory passages should be taken while keeping us safe.

  13. I’m glad to know that at least some construction work is continuing on the MBTA, taking advantage of less traffic. Perhaps when things re-open fully, the weekend closings and other disruptions will be unnecessary.

  14. I live on the Route 66 bus line and since the COVD quarantine, the bus riders have decreased dramatically. I see no more than 2-5 people yet the buses continue on mainly empty. It’s such a waste of $$ dollars and manpower. The routes and number of buses need to be looked at carefully. On a positive note, the air is much cleaner due to the reduction of vehicles, especially large diesel construction trucks.

  15. I strongly support our transit system, and was a daily T/bus rider before I retired, and a frequent user after. Although I am not using it now, I hope to be able to feel safe enough to use it in the near future and am waiting to see what the plan is. We absolutely need a strong, sustainable transit system to support our economy, environment, and community moving forward. A return to the status quo would be a disaster. First priority in near and mid-term planning should be on the most vulnerable communities and essential workers (there is a big overlap between those two) and ensuring they can safely access work and other needs. Perhaps focus on where ridership has kept up the most, rather than on coverage where many of us might be able to remain working from home. Ensure those currently relying on buses and the T to make sure they can ride safely.

  16. I think it’s important for the government to strongly urge companies who can operate with employees working remotely, to continue to do so. Some companies are seeing the reopening of the state as a green light to send masses of people into shared spaces, when for many jobs, no one needs to physically be in the same building. I work in an administrative role in the medical field, and while our scientists are back at work, my organization recognizes that those of us who can do our jobs from home, should for the foreseeable future. I think that’s the right position to take. Public transportation needs to be a major consideration if we expect to have some control over this virus. If you trace the outbreaks across the country, most occurred indoors, in poorly ventilated areas, with groups of people in close proximity to one another. The MBTA checks all the wrong boxes when it comes to getting to work safely in the midst of an ongoing pandemic, and preventing a major outbreak. The goal, as I understand it, is to try to control the spread until we have a vaccine, or at least effective treatments. I don’t think that can be accomplished if everyone resumes commuting to work in the same manner that we were back in February.

  17. Before Covid-19, my use of the T was primarily to go to the library, attend events, visit parks, or go to meetings. Now all of those activities are on-line except for the parks. I have been avoiding the T in order to keep it available & less crowded for those who need it to get to work. I strongly support the T and will be ready to use it again when it seems appropriate.

  18. The T is cleaner than I have ever seen it! BTW do what you can to stop the university corporations from flooding our neighborhoods with persons from all parts of the nation and world, incubating the virus, and then spreading it as they return home.. Remember, this is a PANDEMIC.

  19. This article says that the CDC itself has confirmed a relatively low COVID-19 fatality rate:
    https://www.sott.net/article/435204-The-CDC-confirms-remarkably-low-coronavirus-death-rate-Where-is-the-media
    No fatality is acceptable, but realism must play a role too.

    Has society and certain elected officials overreacted to COVID-19?

    Many doctors have pointed out that the shutdowns have also had a health cost: exams (blood pressure; blood and urine tests; etc.) not done, cancer screenings (mammograms, colonoscopies, melanomas, etc.) not done, various diseases not detected and treated, and more.

    Hospitals have lost money and staff have been furloughed.

    These costs must be factored in but aren’t because much of the COVID-19 crisis is based on harming the economy and thereby defeating Trump. We know who wants that.

    1. Unfortunately, the CDC report does not actually say what that article claims it says. The people who are saying that it does are misinterpreting the data. Who can say whether that’s on purpose. *shrug*

      But even if it were accurate, a 0.26% IFR would mean 853,000 dead Americans if we went back to business as usual without a vaccine or widespread mask use, testing, and contact tracing.

      Only a monster thinks a recession is worse than killing 853,000 people.

      And of course it’s a false dichotomy because all the data we have indicates that the best way to protect an economy during a pandemic is to stop the pandemic as quickly as possible.

      The only person to blame for Trump’s decline in popularity during this pandemic is Trump. If his administration had responded competently to the pandemic instead of corruptly, he would be more popular now than ever.

      I have multiple friends who have lost family members to Covid-19, Dee, so you can just fuck right off with your conspiracy theories that I would rather see Trump lose an election than my friends’ loved ones still alive.

  20. Thank you for this survey, Will. Hoping the Green New Deal will help with guiding the MBTA as well as our health concerns.

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