Ongoing paradox of SF Bay Area that underutilizes ICT, chokes on traffic congestion

If it seems as if you’re spending more time behind the wheel than ever, it’s not an illusion. Since 2010, the amount of time Bay Area drivers endure crawling along in freeway congestion has soared 70 percent.That’s the highest level of “congested delay” — time spent in traffic moving at speeds of 35 mph or less — since traffic experts began keeping track in 1981.

Source: Drive across Bay Bridge tops list of Bay Area’s worst commutes – SFGate

The San Francisco Bay Area continues to underutilize its signature product — information and communications technologies (ICT) — that could make a big dent in its world class traffic congestion by reducing commute trips.

Instead of commuting along freeways to offices located elsewhere in the Bay Area, ICT enables knowledge workers to remain at home or in the communities rather than playing road warrior each work day. But the Industrial Age commute to the office habit is proving to be very enduring even as traffic congestion and associated delays and adverse quality of life impacts continue to increase.

Last rush hour may be drawing near as Southern California transit agencies report shrinking ridership

“I don’t know if this is long-term, but it doesn’t feel like it’s temporary when we’ve been dealing with 36 straight months of declining ridership,” said Darrell Johnson, chief executive of the Orange County Transportation Authority.The decline suggests that Southern California policymakers are falling short of one of their longtime goals: drawing drivers out of their cars and onto public transportation to reduce traffic congestion, greenhouse gases and the region’s reliance on fossil fuels.

Source: Southland transit agencies report shrinking ridership as investments continue to grow – LA Times

The last rush hour may be drawing near in a region infamous for some of the worst rush hour traffic in the United States. Once a region becomes so geographically large and heavily populated as Southern California (and other metro areas including Atlanta, Washington DC and the San Francisco Bay Area), the transportation system becomes saturated and can no longer move people efficiently within reasonable transit times.

Public transit cannot remedy that inefficiency once a tipping point of traffic congestion is reached, often taking longer to reach a destination than driving and reducing incentive to use it. Neither can adding more freeway lanes, which drives up automobile commuting and only buys time until congestion once again snarls traffic a decade or so later.

The good news is information and communications technology (ICT) has matured to the point that office workers no longer need to commute to an office distant from their communities — a pattern enabled by freeways. They can now work in their communities in home offices and co-working spaces. In that regard, ICT can succeed in achieving the long held goal of transportation and regional planners to reduce automobile use for daily commute trips as well as support environmental objectives such as reducing carbon emissions. ICT could already be a factor in reduced public transit ridership as office workers remain in their home communities at least part of the work week.

Facebook’s 10-Mile, $10,000 Solution to Workers’ Long Commutes | Boomtown | News Fix | KQED News

We know all about the legions of tech workers who live in fun, urbane San Francisco and commute to work in Silicon Valley. They’ve been blamed for driving up rents in the city. And the luxury buses that carry them to and from Google, Apple, Yahoo and other tech campuses have been likened to “spaceships on which our alien overlords have landed” to rule over the locals.Now, one big Silicon Valley company is trying to get its employees to move closer to work. Facebook is offering payments of $10,000 and up to workers who relocate to within 10 miles of its main campus, just off Highway 84 at the western end of the Dumbarton Bridge.

Source: Facebook’s 10-Mile, $10,000 Solution to Workers’ Long Commutes | Boomtown | News Fix | KQED News

Wouldn’t it be far easier and less costly to both Facebook and its employees to simply go virtual to end the time wasting three hour daily commutes endured by staff living in San Francisco? And do employees really need to be sitting in a cubicle to do their jobs and have co-located face time collaboration Monday through Friday?

The irony here is these Silicon Valley companies innovated information technology tools that erase time and distance in business communication and collaboration, yet remain mired in the pre-information, Industrial Age economy where knowledge work is centralized in commute-in offices. Those tools enable collaboration without the commute.

Another option Facebook should consider along with other Silicon Valley companies is bringing the work closer to the workers by using on demand “office as a service” providers in San Francisco and elsewhere instead of building massive commuter campuses and deploying bus fleets to bring the workers to the work.

California falling short in push for more clean vehicles

Even as California sells itself as an environmental success story during the United Nations summit here, the state is in danger of failing to meet its own targets for getting clean vehicles on the road.

Source: California falling short in push for more clean vehicles

Another strategy the state should adopt is to cut down on daily commute trips by encouraging employer organizations (including itself) to more widely adopt distributed work. Rather than driving to a centralized commuter office in another distant community, people would work in their own communities in co-working spaces shared by multiple employers as well as in home-based offices.