Attendant with the increased reliance on single occupant vehicles, workers are also spending more time commuting. The number of workers commuting longer than 30 minutes grew from 3.2 million (30.5% of commuters) in 1980 to 6.5 million (40.6%) in 2013 and to 6.8 million (41.4%) in 2014. This trend stems in large part from the growing congestion on California roads, but also reflects the continuing influence of housing costs on the commuting choices California workers are able to make. As the state’s regulatory systems continue to drive up housing costs especially within the coastal urban areas, workers also continue to rely heavily on single occupant vehicles to expand their housing affordability options, even in face of the additional time and travel costs associated with these longer commutes.
The report goes on to note one of the best (and I would add lowest cost) alternatives to mitigate commute transportation demand is reducing the need to commute in the first place:
Working at home continues to be the fastest growing alternative commuting mode, although at less than a million workers out of a total of 17 million statewide, its potential as a broader solution remains unfulfilled. However, the ability of employers to expand this option and provide the flexibility many workers desire remains challenged by the ever-growing body of California-only employment regulations and their associated litigation risks. Further expansion of this commuting mode will likely remain tied more to the self-employed and higher-income professionals rather than applying to a broader range of workers and income levels.
The obvious conclusion: In order to reduce commuting, knowledge work and management practices must be redefined for the 21st century where information and communications technology (ICT) makes it possible for all levels of workers to work remotely from home or in satellite and co-working spaces in their home communities. And not just self-employed and higher income professionals given the high cost of housing in central metro areas that pushes lower income earners out to the edges.
There’s another bonus that is certain to pique the interest of employers concerned about ever rising spending on health benefit costs. Having staff work in their communities frees up time to engage in healthier lifestyles and provides greater access to health promoting behaviors. I recently completed a comprehensive white paper on this topic. For more information, contact me by clicking the email icon at the upper right of the page.