As we demonstrate in a new report for Chapman University, our urban form does not work well for conventional mass transit. Too many people go to too many locales to work, and, as housing prices have surged, many have moved farther way, which makes trains less practical, given the lack of a dominant job center.
Rather than try to re-engineer the region, perhaps we should seek mobility solutions that can work. Building new rail lines — and, and even more absurdly, trolleys, which average a pathetic 8 miles per hour — will do nothing relieve traffic. More densification can be expected only to worsen congestion.
Arguably, the most promising step would be to encourage work at home. There are already more people working at home than transit riders in Southern California. Since 1990, home office use increased by eight times that of transit use, with virtually no public expenditure. Home-based workers, needless to say, do not receive subsidies.
Joel Kotkin and Wendell Cox explain why mass transit cannot ease congestion in Southern California. Their explanation extends to most of today’s metro areas. While organizations have commute-in work locations, they aren’t necessarily well served by transit lines. And getting to work by transit is quite challenging and promotes wellness destroying super commutes that take hours every day and require multiple transfers and modes of transportation as recently detailed by The New York Times.
Kotkin and Cox propose a sensible, environmentally friendly and low cost solution that does away with commuting altogether: enabling people to work at home. Since not everyone has suitable home office space in their homes, co-working spaces and satellite locations in communities where workers live also provide a solution. Public funds would be better invested on telecommunications infrastructure than mass transit to support knowledge work performed in these communities.