For the past several years I’ve been getting myself in a little bit of trouble with some of my peers in the Traffic and Transportation (T&T) planning and Transit Oriented Development (TOD) industries. I have spent a great deal of time writing and speaking about the need to reduce, or in some cases completely eliminate, roadway expansion for larger freeways and the new construction of virtually all mass transportation systems. Of course, in California, where the car culture was born, nurtured, and come of age, these thoughts border on heresy. Unfortunately, while I do enjoy my cars, the reality is that our car dependent culture here in California has become a burden to many people, and a benefit only to those who are connected to the liberal political class. Every year, as the population continues to grow here in California, so to the number of trucks, cars, delivery vehicles, repair and supply vehicles, and all other modes of getting to and from our homes and our workplaces.
However, the advancement of technology and communications, has eliminated the need for many of us to drive to work. For very large segment of the population, we wake up early in the morning, slam down some coffee, jump into our cars, commute for an hour or more, arrive at work already worn out and frazzled, then spend the next 8 to 10 hours looking at a computer screen and typing on a keyboard, just so that we can do the reverse commute at the end of the day. This means that for the average commuter, he or she is away from home on average 11 to 12 hours a day. This is time spent away from family, children, your neighborhood, and your community. Hundreds of sociological studies have shown that one of the major issues facing young families is the fact that one or more of the parents is away from home nearly 12 hours every single day.
So, imagine a world, where you did not wake up in the morning and go to work at an office. You wake up in the morning, have breakfast with your children, make sure they got their homework done, see them off to school, then slip into your own home office with the latest and best technology, log on to the office server, and start your workday. No commute, no stress, and no sitting in traffic.
Beyond the important benefits to your health and your family, there would be fewer cars on the road. This will obviously lead to better air quality and reduced greenhouse gas emissions. Additionally, with fewer vehicles on the road, the need to expand our freeways, will also be reduced. This will free up billions of tax dollars so that high-speed communications infrastructure, green power, and fresh clean water from desalination, can be delivered at reasonable rates to every household in the state. Other benefits will include greater home ownership rates, lower daytime crime rates in our neighborhoods, children that will be supervised and have mom or dad, or both, at home after school. Participation in local social organizations, churches, clubs, and sports, will also increase, providing for greater quality of life for everyone. Lastly, the local economy of all of our small and medium-sized towns, all across California, will be enhanced because people will be spending money where they live instead of spending money on the road.
Granted, this scenario will not work for every person in every situation. But when you consider how many people get in the car every morning and go to work in a cubicle, it seems to make far more sense to spend hard earned tax dollars on communications infrastructure so that we can link our homes to our workplaces, and truly find work-life balance.
This blog post inspired by Want to be Green? Forget Mass Transit. Work from Home, by Joel Kotkin.