Permanent Reduction in Number of Suburban Commuters Could Significantly Affect Center City

Dan Weckerly
COVID-19 long-term effect on commuters to Philadelphia
Image via Gary Todd at Creative Commons.

A permanent reduction in the number of suburban commuters could have a significant impact on Center City and its many businesses, writes Jake Blumgart for Philadelphia Magazine

In 2019, close to 120,000 suburbanites commuted to Center City for their jobs. But after COVID-19 hit, that changed. Work from home arrangements became the norm. At the height of the pandemic, about two-thirds of the country’s professionals workers worked remotely. 

While companies have started returning workers to the office, experts believe that a significant percentage of those professional jobs will become permanently remote over the next five years. 

In the past, suburban commuters added around $875 million in wage taxes to annual Philadelphia’s budget. A long-term shift toward remote work puts that revenue in peril.

SEPTA, currently supported by massive volumes of federal aid, will also need to consider the implications of telecommuting. The loss suburbanites who no longer need the rail service could be significant.

Meanwhile, small businesses are also suffering due to the change. Numerous service providers in Philadelphia — convenience stores, sandwich shops, dry cleaners, florists, gift shops, newsstands — have had to close their doors for good.

Read more about the economic impact of this commuting issue in Philadelphia Magazine