New generation of policymakers, planners needed to solve metro area traffic congestion

Liccardo, who also sits on the commission board, said reducing traffic congestion in the South Bay will require cities to add more housing units instead of simply focusing on job growth, and it might require regional incentives and penalties on cities.“We need to get people living closer to where they work,” Liccardo said.

Source: Highways to hell: Bay Area’s worst commutes ranked by MTC –

True for those who must be on site for their work. Not true for most knowledge workers who thanks to today’s information and communications technology — much of it innovated in the Bay Area. A new generation of policymakers and planners is needed that recognizes the potential of ICT to reduce the need for daily commute trips that substantially contribute to the enormous transportation demand that’s choking the Bay Area and other metros.

Externalizing the cost of the daily commute

Just a day after a United Nations panel called for urgent action on climate change, the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences was awarded Monday to one American researcher for his work on the economics of a warming planet and to another whose study of innovation raises hopes that people can do something about it.The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences awarded the $1-million prize Monday to William Nordhaus of Yale University and Paul Romer of New York University. Nordhaus, 77, who has been called “the father of climate change economics,” developed models that suggest how governments can fight global warming. He has endorsed a universal tax on carbon, which would require polluters to pay for the costs that their emissions impose on society.

Source: Nobel in economics goes to two Americans for studying climate change and sustainable growth – Los Angeles Times

Or as economists term it, externalizing the costs. In the Industrial Age that brought the centralization of workplaces, the environmental as well as personal costs of daily commuting were externalized onto society and workers, respectively.

Now that Information and Communications Technology (ICT) allows knowledge workers at least to work where they live, acceptance of those costs is likely to meet with increased resistance. Especially if high carbon taxes are adopted and commuters face rising fuel and other transportation costs. And for good reason. The externalization and bearing of those costs no longer makes sense.

ICT to reduce commute trips and associated vehicle emissions takes on greater urgency as U.N. report calls for “aggressive action” to cool global climate

Not long after the first Earth Day in April 1970, a Los Angeles aerospace engineer as engineers are wont to do saw a problem and came up with a solution to fix it. The problem Jack Nilles saw in his daily drive to the office was bumper to bumper traffic and bad air quality. His solution: substituting telecommunications for commute induced transportation demand by establishing satellite offices in “bedroom communities” where people lived to avoid the trip to centralized commuter offices. The environmental benefit of the solution Nilles proposed nearly five decades ago takes on increased urgency with the publication of a report issued today by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warning of rapidly accelerating global warming.

Absent aggressive action, many effects once expected only several decades in the future will arrive by 2040, and at the lower temperature, the report shows. “It’s telling us we need to reverse emissions trends and turn the world economy on a dime,” said Myles Allen, an Oxford University climate scientist and an author of the report.

To prevent 2.7 degrees of warming, the report said, greenhouse pollution must be reduced by 45 percent from 2010 levels by 2030, and 100 percent by 2050.

Turning the global economy on a dime is challenging to say the least. Cutting motor vehicle emissions associated with commuting is one measure that could be implemented relatively quickly, especially considering today’s information and communications technology is far more advanced than when Nilles first came up with his idea in the early 1970s, thanks to the proliferation of Internet protocol-based telecommunications.

Advanced telecommunications infrastructure redraws socioeconomy

Virtually everything has changed in the internet age. There were times when people flocked to cities for work. Lured by the opportunity for prosperity, people moved to major cities, driving massive population growth. During the Industrial Revolution, people moved to places such as Detroit to work on the assembly lines of automotive manufacturers, and in the tech boom, professionals flocked to Austin, Boston and Silicon Valley. Now these metro areas are bursting at the seams. Though a major city can be attractive for professional, educational or social reasons, rural communities are equally attractive and full of opportunities – but only if they have the great equalizer: access to high-speed internet. The internet boom – the current era – introduced the idea of “knowledge workers.” Today, instead of moving to a city to pursue a specific field of work, knowledge workers can work from anywhere in the country for major companies. Instead of moving to San Jose to work at a technology company headquarters, a knowledge worker can deliver that same work, remotely, from a town in the Sierras or the middle of Wisconsin. With high-speed internet access, small towns have the opportunity to offer “big city jobs.”

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The social case that enables transformation from labor to knowledge work is arguably greater in magnitude. The combination of new levels of  consumption and productivity changes the lives of individuals, families and entire communities. This combined opportunity has true potential for industrial diversification and economic growth that also improves the quality of life for people who use the network to not only consume but also to deliver their work.