ICT poised to revolutionize knowledge work as profoundly as the automobile and freeways did in the 1950s.

Gov, like an increasing number of Californians, has an extreme commute to her job. She works in communications at a non-profit organization about 30 miles away, up the notorious 405 to Santa Monica. On good days it takes an hour and a half each way, on the worst days it’s two and a half hours each way.“It’s literally like a part-time job,” she said. Gov’s boyfriend has a similarly long commute into Los Angeles. They wish they could live closer in, but homes closer to their jobs were way out of their price range. To afford to buy here a lot more people are living like Jenny Gov – spending more of their day in ever worsening traffic, leaving little time to spend with family and neighbors, coaching little league or exploring the wonders of California.

Brian Taylor, an urban planning professor who directs the Institute of Transportation Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles said the housing crisis has exacerbated the dilemma in recent years, as new housing construction has lagged in parts of the state where well-paid employment in our more knowledge-based economy has multiplied.

Source: High Home Prices And Congestion Shrink The California Dream – capradio.org

Image result for los angeles traffic congestionChances are Ms. Gov is a knowledge worker and perhaps her boyfriend is as well. When Los Angeles freeways first opened in the 1950s, it was possible to get anywhere in the basin in about 20 minutes. Now they are so clogged daily commuting has become unbearable. It’s no longer as feasible to live in one community and work in another as it was in the golden age of the California freeway, the L.A. car culture and cheap fuel. Nor does it any longer make sense to spend hours commuting to use a computer in a centralized commute-in office.

Now on the threshold to the 2020s and beyond, a shift as profound as how the automobile and the freeway defined daily work life is at hand. It’s Internet-fueled information and communications technology (ICT) that makes it possible to do knowledge work in the communities where knowledge workers live. That gets them off the freeways on work days and would likely make a sizable contribution to improving the region’s notoriously poor air quality. Not to mention the quality of life of lots of Californians who as this story reports find the California dream elusive as they spend much of their lives engaged in long commutes.

CalEPA growing, must cut cubicles for regulators | The Sacramento Bee

California can’t fit all of its environmental regulators in its 25-story Environmental Protection Agency headquarters, and it doesn’t want to shell out tens of millions of dollars to find them new digs, either.Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration found a solution that will sound familiar to any longtime traveler squeezing his knees into tight airplane seats: His agency wants to slash the size of standard cubicles in the EPA headquarters.The administration is asking lawmakers to set aside $23 million in next year’s budget to gradually reconfigure the headquarters so it can fit another 1,100 workers in downtown Sacramento. The headquarters today has 2,800 cubicles.


Source: CalEPA growing, must cut cubicles for regulators | The Sacramento Bee

There’s another way of dealing with this problem: Having staff work outside of the centralized, commute-in office in home offices and neighborhood co-working spaces. Despite state policy dating back to the late 1980s, the state continues to operate as if it were 1975 and there was no Internet or today’s advanced information and communications technologies, requiring staff to report daily to cubicle farms.

One might think the frugal Brown administration would be eager to avoid the cost of “officing” all those state workers. Not to mention the transportation demand they create and associated carbon emissions the Brown administration wants to reduce.

Self-driving cars. Scooters. The future of commuting to work is here

From crowdsourced shuttle buses to companies offering rides to lure top talent, here are concepts used in some cities that could one day help your morning commute.

Source: Self-driving cars. Scooters. The future of commuting to work is here

This is applying state of the art technology to the Industrial Age practice of transporting knowledge workers to offices rather than utilizing information and communications technologies of the Information Age to decentralize knowledge work, bringing it to communities where people live.

It may look like progress. But in fact it’s regressive and reflects a 1950s mindset wherein knowledge work can only be performed in centralized, commute in offices. It does little to relieve the daily time suck of the commute. It’s time to put the Industrial Age in the past and truly evolve.

As suburbanites face growing “nightmare” commutes, co-working spaces offer relief

Sacramento like other California metros finds its suburbs at an inflection point. In the 1950s and 1960s, the car was (and still is) king, gas was cheap and the state had gleaming new concrete freeways to facilitate commuting to a distant office.

Now the Golden State’s freeways are at a major maintenance interval and a lot more knowledge workers pack onto them each workday, making for “nightmare commutes,” according to the February 2018 issue of the region’s business magazine, Comstock’s. A logical solution is to bring knowledge work to the suburbs where people live to get them out of their cars, particularly given the decades long difficulty planners have encountered encouraging the use of public transit:

Suburbs are also looking at opportunities for residents to work where they live, and several are adopting the concept of coworking spaces — a shared workspace for entrepreneurs and business professionals from all industries. The concept alleviates congested commutes and the high cost of office space, provides access to a network of business professionals and skill development classes, and rents offices and conference rooms for meetings.

Source: Slumber Party

Peter Thiel: ICT offers low cost, green solution to metro area transportation, housing challenges

Venture capitalist and PayPal founder Peter Thiel was recently interviewed on the Fox Business Network on the city of the future. Thiel talked about the two major shortcomings of today’s city as a situs for knowledge work concentrated in centralized metro commute-in offices: transportation and housing. Transportation systems – roads, highways and public transit – are “badly inadequate” in most metros, Thiel said, and housing costs are exorbitant. Both leave knowledge workers with two bad choices. “People need to have super long commutes or live in small apartments near the city centers where they have to spend all of their salaries on the apartments,” Thiel explained.

That’s where information and communications technology (ICT) can provide a workaround by allowing knowledge work to be dispersed outside of urban centers, according to Thiel. ICT solves the housing problem since it provides access to more affordable housing while at the same time eliminating the need for daily commute trips.

The idea isn’t new and has spawned years of debate despite the strong benefit in solving the housing and transportation challenge ever since Jack Nilles coined the term “telecommuting” in the 1970s. That debate continues to play out nearly two decades into the new century among organizations – ironically including ICT innovators like Yahoo, HP, Apple and IBM – that resist substituting ICT for transportation, fearing a geographically dispersed workforce won’t be as productive or collaborative as one co-located in a centralized, commute-in office setting. Thiel explains:

The ICT version (of transportation) people have talked about for decades is telecommuting. And so would there be some way so that you won’t need transportation at all, you could just do your work remotely. For a variety of reasons this has not worked over the last 30, 40 years people have been talking about it. The [perceived] problem generally is that people who work from their homes, they don’t work as hard. A lot of the value of work comes from talking to people in various ways.

However, Thiel notes management practices are changing to overcome those concerns that concentrate on managing the production and delivery of the work product. That focus necessarily forces a degree of diligence and collaboration to get the work done, he implies.

I think we’re starting to see more and more of this telecommuting in Silicon Valley and elsewhere where people are finding small teams of developers outside of Silicon Valley, there are ways to sort of bundle, put the work in certain packages that you allocate to different people. So I think maybe one of the end runs around the transportation system will be telecommuting. That’s a trend that’s underrated that’s worth exploring a lot more.

Norman Macrae on telecommunications as transport, work revolution

Telecommunications are now recognised as the third of the three great transport revolutions that have, in swift succession, transformed society in the past two hundred years. First, were the railways; second the automobile; and third, telecommunications-attached-to-the-computer, which was bound to be the most far-reaching because in telecommunications, once the infrastructure is installed, the cost of use does not depend greatly on distance.

[C]lose to 90 percent of the American workforce in 2025 can telecommute to their daily work from their family homes and the majority choose to do so.

Norman Macrae, The 2025 Report: A Concise History of the Future 1975-2025 (1984). New York: Macmillan Publishing Company.

U.S. commute length grows from 2012 to 2016

Americans are driving longer on the country’s roads and bridges to get to work. This is particularly true in larger metro areas or smaller metro areas within commuting distance of a larger metro area. Shorter commutes are generally found around smaller metro areas. On the whole, the census found that commutes got slightly longer from 2012 through 2016 than in the previous five-year period.

Source: America today: Longer commutes, higher rents, less English at home – CNNPolitics

Uber’s silly solution to the daily commute grind

While the idea of casually commuting to work via flying aircraft is quite exciting, Uber Elevate still has many obstacles to navigate before takeoff. One hurdle consists of developing the infrastructure to support VTOL aircraft. This new infrastructure would include building ‘vertiports’. A ‘vertiport’ is a VTOL aircraft hub comprising of multiple takeoff and landing pads as well as charging stations for the vehicles. Vertiports would need to be constructed all around the cities and suburbs in order for Uber Elevate to be effective. As of now, Uber plans to build vertiports on existing helipads, on top of parking garages, rooftops, or on unused land around highway interchanges. Uber believes in the long run creating this new infrastructure will be more cost effective than continued work on building and repairing roads, rails, bridges, and tunnels.

Source: Skip the commute and fly to work with Uber Elevate – Twin Cities Agenda

This is a silly pie in the sky pipe dream. It calls for the construction of more transportation infrastructure — a 20th century solution to automobile commute congestion — to accommodate a 21st century vision straight out of The Jetsons. At a time when infrastructure funding is constrained.

We don’t need another form of transportation infrastructure to reduce commute congestion and the associated time suck of sitting in traffic. Instead, we need to better utilize and expand as necessary existing telecommunications infrastructure to serve knowledge workers in communities where they live, working at home or in shared supported office facilities. That can effectively reduce and eventually eliminate the commute rather than taking it to the skies.

As management expert Peter Drucker famously asked, why move a 200 pound body when all that’s needed is its eight pound brain? That question applies whether it’s ground or air transportation.

Michael Shear’s Rx for the increasingly congested commute and improved access to knowledge jobs

The biggest challenges facing metro regions are transportation and traffic congestion, accessible well-paying employment opportunities and affordable housing. In the world of knowledge organizations, a closely related challenge is determining to what extent staff members will work in the centralized, commute-in office and which are “remote” workers who perform their job duties outside of the office, typically working from home.

Michael Shear of Strategic Office Networks LLC has a solution that addresses all of these for knowledge organizations and regional transportation planners: transitioning away from the centralized, commute-in office of the Industrial Age economy to a more decentralized structure that utilizes today’s advanced information and communications technologies (ICT) to bring the work to communities where knowledge workers live. Those technologies link Enterprise Centers® that serve as community-based workplaces for as little as a few dozen to several hundred employees working for major employers located throughout a metropolitan or regional area. These centers are the building blocks of what Shear terms Distributed Metropolitan Design®.


I interviewed Shear for the Last Rush Hour podcast in December 2015. Listen here.


Key to Shear’s concept is reframing how we think about transportation. With today’s robust ICT capabilities that make it possible to work from most anywhere and traffic congestion crippling many metro areas, the issue is no longer how to most efficiently transport knowledge workers to centralized commuter offices. It’s now about access to a workplace that meets the needs of both the worker and the employer organization.

Traditional transportation initiatives encourage commuters to use public transportation or carpool in specially designated highway lanes. Transportation planners plan more expressway lanes to accommodate the continued growth in commute transportation demand. That remedy has hit the wall as metro areas continue to struggle with commute congestion, particularly as knowledge workers are forced to select housing far from their offices that they can afford, adding to commute transportation demand. Meanwhile, highly compensated workers bid up the cost of housing in central metro areas, fostering a severe housing affordability crisis such as currently afflicting California.

Shear’s concept recognizes that organizations have substantial investments in existing office space. They often can’t quickly transition to an office-less virtual organization. Nor are many workers ready or able to work from a home office or wherever else they choose. Much of this reality drives the debate over the pros and cons of “remote” work and “telework.” With a distributed organizational structure, these terms become far less relevant. When staff need to be co-located for team meetings and project sprints requiring intense collaboration that can be accomplished in settings outside of dedicated central offices. Shear also argues that the most prevalent form of “casual” telework — where only some knowledge workers work from home a day or two per week or more infrequently — cannot make a significant impact on transportation demand and metro area congestion.

A primary challenge for Shear’s concept is determining the right size for the Enterprise Centers®. They provide supported office space in residential communities and must be sensitive to the character of those communities. They must be large enough to be economically efficient but can’t grow too large because they will then generate substantial commute trips from non-locals and objections from nearby residents, effectively becoming the big commute-in cube farms and sprawling parking lots they would replace. Their size would likely be a function of the housing density of the neighborhoods in which they are located. Larger facilities would serve higher density areas where knowledge workers live within walking or bicycling distance with smaller ones most suited to lower density neighborhoods and reached by those modes of transportation or short trips by automobile or public transportation.

Flying Ubers by 2020? The Future Passenger Drones

Uber is pushing to become the world’s next airline — without buying any planes. Instead, the company believes that a fleet of flying cars could solve the dilemma of daily commutes to work and between meetings in increasingly congested cities. And with the announcement on Wednesday that Uber has secured a contract with NASA to develop software to make “flying taxis” possible, that push seems one step closer to reality.

Source: Flying Ubers by 2020? The Future Passenger Drones

This is nuts. We already have the technology — information and communications technology — that makes daily commuting to a distant office unnecessary.

Commuting isn’t a transportation challenge in the 21st Century. It’s a management challenge: learning how to manage knowledge workers who are geographically dispersed. As management expert Peter Drucker put it years ago, “What is the point of spending such huge sums to bring a 200-lb.-body downtown when all you want of it is its eight-and-a-half pound brain?”