21st century solution to curb California mega commutes: Leveraging ICT for knowledge jobs

The conference also included a short talk by Lenny Mendonca, Gov. Gavin Newsom’s chief economic and business adviser. Asked about Newsom’s efforts to promote regional responses to the state’s affordable housing shortage and Marin’s reluctance to surrender local control, Mendonca said, “There are 85,000 people a day who commute from the northern part of San Joaquin Valley and Sacramento into the Bay Area.“Those are often people who are commuting and an hour and a half and two hours each way in their car for economic opportunity,” Mendonca said. “That creates all kinds of challenges from housing costs to traffic to air quality to quality of life and community degradation.” Mendonca said one way to address this problem is to build more housing in places where the jobs are, including the Bay Area and Los Angeles.

Source: Economist: Marin recession unlikely before 2021

That’s one way — a 20th century approach. But it takes a long time for new housing to come online, particularly in the already built out Bay Area and Los Angeles. Additionally, proposed land use reforms to reshape suburban development with high density housing near mass transit encounters strong political resistance. A far faster, cheaper 21st century solution is to take a different approach to working, particularly knowledge work. Nowadays, people don’t need a commute-in office in some far off location to get it done. They can leverage information and communications technology to work in the communities where they live so the work can come to them instead of having to drive for hours each day to work.

Indeed, Mendonca recognized the need for more widely deployed advanced telecommunications infrastructure to enable virtual working in a recent interview. “We have large portions in every geographic area, especially rural California, that don’t have access,” he told the San Francisco Chronicle. “You need access to current technologies at the speed the world is moving.”

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