April 21, 2012
Earth Day By The Numbers – Statistics on Telework And How It Contributes
Telecommuters (employees who work at home) out-number employees who use mass transit in 12 of the 30 largest U.S. metropolitan areas. The latest Census data we looked at also shows that Atlanta squeaked past San Diego and took the lead as the metro area with the most telecommuters overall – but San Diego still has a huge lead when it comes to Federal employees who work at home, about 4 times the national average.
Given that it’s Earth Day, we wonder why in 2009 the federal government spent $1.1 billion on highways and mass transit, but only plans to spend about $6 million a year to support the law passed in 2010 called the Telework Enhancement Act (PL 111-292). Yes, it’s apples and oranges, but I hope you see the point.
Mobility management objectives, as they’re called, are targets to reduce vehicle miles traveled (VMT) and encourage alternative modes such as walking, cycling, and public transit.
Transportation planners seldom include mobility management and alternative work strategies – such as working at home and not driving at all – as objectives, much less as funded programs. We think that’s odd considering there’s conclusive evidence that shows that the more roads you build the more people drive on one hand, and there’s a 3- to 10-fold reduction in congestion for every car you take off the road on the other hand.
But there is hope. California law requires regional governments to develop smart growth transport and land use plans that reduce VMT (CPDR 2008). The Washington State legislature set a target to reduce statewide per capita VMT 25% below 1990 levels by 2035.
Another way to look at the issue is to consider that emission reductions provided by mobility management creates more of an overall benefit than the same reduction created by more efficient and alternative fuel vehicles such as hybrid and electric cars. Increased fuel efficiency makes driving cheaper, which stimulates more vehicle traffic. That actually increases congestion, parking costs, and accidents.
Our research shows that if the 41 million Americans with telework-compatible jobs worked from home just one day, U.S. savings would total $772 million including:
- $494 million in commuter costs
- $185 million from 2.3 million barrels of oil saved
- $93 million from 775 fewer traffic accidents
And that’s not all. If everyone who could work at home did just one day, the environment would be spared 423,000 tons of greenhouse gas – the equivalent of taking 77,000 cars off the road for a year.