Telecommuting Can Add to Our Mobility

In a new Reason Foundation commentary, Senior Transportation Policy Analyst Shirley Ybarra discusses the advantages of telecommuting:

In recent weeks, telecommuting has been in the news as a result of policymaker’s efforts to encourage both public and private sector employees to telecommute. Virginia state officials promoted a “telework” day on August 3, 2009. A story about the event appeared in the Washington Post shortly after, and last week the Post reported that the United States Office of Personnel Management has been pushing federal government employees to telecommute.
The renewed interest in telecommuting makes sense: Telecommuting has a positive impact on many of the most prominent political and cultural issues dominating popular discourse today. In a 2005 Reason Foundation study titled The Quiet Success: Telecommuting’s Impact on Transportation and Beyond, my colleague Ted Balaker notes a number of these effects. Balaker writes:

Telecommuting may be the most cost-effective way to reduce rush-hour traffic and it can even improve how a weary nation copes with disasters, from hurricanes to terrorist attacks. It helps improve air quality, highway safety, and even health care as new technology allows top-notch physicians to be (virtually) anywhere. Telecommuting expands opportunities for the handicapped, conserves energy, and—when used as a substitute for offshore outsourcing—it can help allay globalization fears. It can even make companies more profitable, which is good news for our nation’s managers, many of whom have long been suspicious of telecommuting.

Ted’s insights about the advantages of telecommuting are true today on an even larger scale, as technology has advanced to extend the availability of low-cost broadband, personal computers, high-performance collaboration tools, and virtual meeting software. All of these tools are adding to the popularity of telecommuting.
Telecommuting significantly reduces travel costs while reducing commuters’ environmental impacts. According to the report, The Perfect Storm: Driving Telework in State and Local Agencies [PDF], congestion wastes 2.9 billion gallons of gas in the United States each year, creating a $78 billion annual drain on the economy. Higher levels of cultural awareness about the effects of climate change coupled with the latest downturn in the economy have made telecommuting an appealing alternative.

Read the whole thing here.