This annual city-wide Travel To Work Survey explores the work-related travel habits of people in Leeds. We use it to spot trends and monitor changes, and we take the results into account when planning future work around safe and sustainable travel.
We usually run this survey in spring. This year, though, we moved the timeframe (15 October to 15 November 2020), in order to capture the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
As usual, the survey went to businesses, schools and other organisations in Leeds that are on our in-house database, and people who work there respond individually.
If you took part in this, thank you. Look out for the next survey, which is likely to be launched in autumn 2021.
This year, though, we included extra questions to find out how the pandemic affected travel and work patterns in 2020 in relation to issues such as working from home patterns, car-parking demand and public transport patronage that we knew have been significantly shaped by the pandemic.
As well as affecting the content of our survey, the pandemic also had an impact on our sample size. Previously, an average of around 29,000 people respond to the Travel to Work Survey. This year, however, we launched the survey when a tiered lockdown system was in place and many organisations were already closed and many staff furloughed. Halfway through the survey (on 31 October) the government imposed a second national lockdown, curtailing all non-essential activities. We were not surprised therefore to receive significantly fewer responses than usual: 8,738. Of these, 4,653 came from businesses, 2,935 from Leeds City Council employees and 1,411 from schools.
Working from home
The trend for working from home has been increasing since 2014, but previously this accounted for less than 1.5% of those surveyed.
Throughout most of 2020, the Government advised those who could work from home to do so. The survey results reflect this, with more than 35% of respondents stating that they were working from home – already a huge increase on previous years. This figure jumped again to more than 55% working from home during the second lockdown.
Working from home is not equally distributed across the city. People working for organisations and businesses based in and around the city were almost twice as likely to work from home as those in outer regions. It’s worth pointing out that retail and hospitality sectors, which account for a considerable number of city centre employees, were under-represented in this year’s survey.
Covid-19 lockdown and restrictions on movement had an impact on traffic levels across the country. This is reflected in the survey, with single-occupancy car journeys in Leeds falling to a historic low of 36% (down from 43% in 2019). The survey shows that car use is unequal across the city, but both inner and outer areas have seen a fall of around 10%, 14.5% in inner areas (down from 25% in 2019) and 53.5% in outer areas (down from 64% in 2019).
The fall in traffic levels has not been equal across all modes. Public transport has been most severely impacted, with use falling by around 33% and train patronage decreasing further than bus patronage. Active Travel (walking and cycling) has fallen marginally across the city, though employees based in outer areas reported an increase in these modes.
The results of the 2020 Annual Travel to Work Survey must of course be considered in the context of the exceptional disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. The ongoing health emergency means that it is too early to make accurate predictions about the full impact of this on the city centre, the way businesses and organisations operate and on existing transport offers.
One legacy of the pandemic will be a likely significant increase in home working, and therefore on the travel to work habits and trends that this survey seeks to understand. We will of course be monitoring these closely in the future.