Every time I am stuck in snarled stop-and-go traffic I am reminded of the same thing: it shouldn’t be this way.
The unstoppable march of technology has made it possible for the vast majority of the people sitting in their cars, parked on the freeway sipping their latte to do the exact same job without going to the office. Between video conferencing, collaboration tools, wikis, email, Skype the “office” is an obsolete relic.
The advantages to reducing commuting to those people who must necessarily commute to perform their job would be tremendous.
1) Fewer cars on the road, everyone would get to their destination more quickly. Less time stuck in traffic = enormous increase in work output. This would be instantly reflected in the GDP.
2) Fewer cars leaving their garages would mean more cars available for car-sharing programs like Relay Rides. Suddenly, the household with 3 cars (1 for mom, 1 for dad, 1 for the high school junior) only needs 1 or 2 cars at most. And one of them can be shared out to someone who can give up their car completely.
3) There is a a growing mountain of evidence that commuting is measurably bad for your health. Nearly 50% of Americans commute. Call it 120million people. If even 20% of them (it seems likely that a much, much higher percentage of commuting is unnecessary) would stop commuting, you’d instantly make almost 30 million Americans more healthy.
4) Consider the ancillary benefits of people not spending 2 hours a day in their car. Less time in the car, fewer stops at Burger King for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. More time at home to cook good meals for themselves and their families. Finally that extra hour in the day to get a quick workout in. Or another hour to spend with the kids. In some families it might be the only hour they get with their children.
What are the downsides? There aren’t any.
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