Sarah Kaufman and Carson Qing
As part of the NYU Rudin Center’s recent report on transportation impacts from Hurricane Sandy, we conducted a survey of commuters to learn about their experiences of getting to work after the storm.
The survey was conducted online, on the site Surveymonkey.com, and was publicized via email blasts and social media. Three hundred-fifteen people in 98 zip codes responded anonymously between October 31 and November 6th, answering questions about their typical and post-Sandy commutes.
Key findings from the survey included:
Many people in the region worked after the storm, either physically reporting to an office or by telecommuting. New Jersey had the lowest rate of people who continued to work, at 56%, while 85% of Brooklyn respondents worked, at the highest percentage.
With limited transit options after the storm, New York commuters significantly altered their commute patterns. Bus ridership rose in Brooklyn (5% of respondents normally used buses, but 12% reported using buses November 1-2) after shuttle buses were put in place of subway routes disrupted due to flooding. Bike commuting rose significantly in Manhattan (15% normal to 24% Nov 1/2) and Queens (17% to 30%).
Post-hurricane commute lengths varied significantly by home region, as shown in the table below. The largest differences were in Staten Island, where commute times almost tripled, and Brooklyn, where they doubled. Variations among home locations are due to the wide range of transportation options available to each set of commuters, and the lower number of survey respondents who reported physically to work, rather than telecommuting or not working.
Post-hurricane commutes were twice or three times as long, varying by mode, as shown in the chart below.Average post-Sandy commute lengths ranged from 43 minutes (walked on Nov 1/2) to 115 minutes (drove, or took subway and bus). Frustration levels ranged from 2.3 on the lower end (walked) to 5.7 on the higher end (drove). Commuters who drove, or took a subway and bus combination, had the greatest difference, with travel times at nearly triple their typical lengths. As expected, they were also among the most frustrated commuters.
Walking and biking commuters were, on average, the least frustrated. Commuters who biked to work Nov 1/2 had the fewest delays in their commutes, as they were only 9 minutes longer than their usual commute. Telecommuters ranked their level of frustration on a similar level as transit commuters, 3.7 to 3.8, perhaps due to communications difficulties of connecting to work.
Commuters used a variety of communications channels to learn about transportation resources, as shown in the chart below. They most commonly referred to official websites and social media, and least from smartphone apps and community groups. The lack of smartphone app connectivity was likely due to the lack of schedule and outage data used for programming the apps.
These figures show the need for increased storm preparation and ever-present public information in times of crisis to ensure residents’ mobility. However, the survey results also demonstrate the resilience of New Yorkers and their workplaces; even in the face of detrimental circumstances, New Yorkers’ businesses maintained operations, showcasing the extreme adaptability of their operations, finances and creativity. The adaptations to new, longer commutes are uniquely New York, in that the population quickly adapted to alternate and substitute transportation modes, new norms of local business practices, flexible, temporary workplaces, and continuous communications.
Survey respondents’ home and workplace locations, by zip code:
Average commute times and frustration levels by home region, November 1-2, 2012
||Pre-Sandy Typical Commute Time (min)
||Post-Sandy Commute Time (min)
||Percent Reporting Physically to Work*
||Self-Reported Frustration Level, 1 (min) – 10 (max)
* Excludes telecommuters
Commuters’ travel time by mode and self-reported frustration level:
|NOV 1/2 MODE
||Pre-Sandytravel time (min)
||Post-Sandy travel time (min)
||Avg frustration index (1-10)
|Subway + bus
|Subway + bus + rail
|Did not work
*includes PATH, private buses, ferries and other miscellaneous transit options
Sources of Transportation Information
Respondents were asked to select all that apply.