Home offices offer superior solution for congested, costly metro versus mass transit

As we demonstrate in a new report for Chapman University, our urban form does not work well for conventional mass transit. Too many people go to too many locales to work, and, as housing prices have surged, many have moved farther way, which makes trains less practical, given the lack of a dominant job center.

Rather than try to re-engineer the region, perhaps we should seek mobility solutions that can work. Building new rail lines — and, and even more absurdly, trolleys, which average a pathetic 8 miles per hour — will do nothing relieve traffic. More densification can be expected only to worsen congestion.

Arguably, the most promising step would be to encourage work at home. There are already more people working at home than transit riders in Southern California. Since 1990, home office use increased by eight times that of transit use, with virtually no public expenditure. Home-based workers, needless to say, do not receive subsidies.

Source: The great transit rip-off – Orange County Register

Joel Kotkin and Wendell Cox explain why mass transit cannot ease congestion in Southern California. Their explanation extends to most of today’s metro areas. While organizations have commute-in work locations, they aren’t necessarily well served by transit lines. And getting to work by transit is quite challenging and promotes wellness destroying super commutes that take hours every day and require multiple transfers and modes of transportation as recently detailed by The New York Times.

Kotkin and Cox propose a sensible, environmentally friendly and low cost solution that does away with commuting altogether: enabling people to work at home. Since not everyone has suitable home office space in their homes, co-working spaces and satellite locations in communities where workers live also provide a solution. Public funds would be better invested on telecommunications infrastructure than mass transit to support knowledge work performed in these communities.

California state agency improperly reimbursed super commuter’s costs as travel expense, audit finds

California Department of Public Health wasted state funds when it failed to enforce proper policies or procedures to ensure that it made travel reimbursements in accordance with the applicable state laws. Specifically, from July 2012 through March 2016, Public Health inappropriately reimbursed the commuting expenses of an official from the official’s home in Sonoma County to the official’s headquarters in Sacramento. In total, Public Health reimbursed the official $74,200 in state funds for lodging, meals, incidentals, mileage, and parking during this period. As of June 2016, Public Health continued to improperly reimburse the official for commuting to Sacramento.

Source: California State Auditor – Report I2016-2 Summary – August 2016

So found the California State Auditor’s Office in a report issued this week. It concluded the department cannot ease the personal economic and time burden of a super commuter’s long journey from home to work by treating the employee’s commute as reimbursable business travel and paying for lodging during the work week. (IRS rules do regard long commutes to a distant job as business travel in cases where the job is expected to last less than one year.)

This is an example of how mindless adherence to an outmoded concept of knowledge work (defined solely by daily presence in a centralized, commute-in office) can cause unnecessary problems. The official involved here could likely perform the vast majority of his/her job functions in their home community using the department’s Intranet and a phone. It’s time to embrace the 21st century, people.

California suburbs growing fast as many are priced out of cities, data show – LA Times

Suburban areas on the outskirts of the red-hot Los Angeles and San Francisco areas grew especially fast last year, state officials reported Monday.San Joaquin County, home to Stockton, grew faster than any other, up 1.3% to 733,000 people. The area has become increasingly popular for people fleeing astronomical San Francisco Bay Area housing prices while remaining within commuting distance. San Joaquin was followed by Yolo, Riverside and Santa Clara counties.

Source: California suburbs growing fast as many are priced out of cities, data show – LA Times

Are these locales really within reasonable commuting distance and when those long commutes are factored in, is the arrangement truly affordable? There’s a huge cost on the personal lives and well being of these super commuters. As I reported in my eBook Last Rush Hour: The Decentralization of Knowledge Work in the Twenty-First Century, the trade-off doesn’t pencil out:

These long commutes also do not make good economic sense. The economic calculus for commuters is the time spent commuting is acceptable if that time is compensated either in the form of higher pay and benefits or more affordable housing. But the economics of that trade-off don’t necessarily balance out, according to an academic paper authored by two economists. “[I]n a direct test of this strong notion of equilibrium . . . we find that people with longer commuting time report systematically lower subjective well-being,” the study authors conclude.

Citation: Alois Stutzer and Bruno S. Frey, “Stress that Doesn’t Pay: The Commuting Paradox,” Scandinavian Journal of Economics 110, no. 2 (2008): 339, doi:10.1111/j.1467-9442.2008.00542.x