Transportation: COVID-19, the Aftermath

Sooner or later things will get back to “normal.” Or will they? What will the new normal be? Will people revert to their previous practice of traveling alone even if it means more years of 3 and 4 stressful hours a day lost to commuting? It’s an open question. Some people are finding that they much prefer working at home to traveling to distant and perhaps risky offices. But is it practical to work at home? Can people be as productive? What about the small city businesses that depend upon an incoming flood of commuters every day? Who gets hurt in case many office workers are located elsewhere?

(resume reading here)

Advances in communications technology is making working at home more practical than it used to be. Audio and video conferencing is increasingly used to connect employees, customers, patients and others no longer in physical proximity to one another. Employers are adopting various ways of making sure that their absentee employees remain productive. Some businesses have found that letting their office workers work at home some of the time reduces the need for expensive office space.

It is possible that the cultural changes brought about by COVID-19 will stick. If so the highway backups might remain less formidable than they’ve been during pre-COVID-19 decades and the transit systems and urban streets less crowded.

Like the proverbial frog in the pot of warming water, people living in growing and dynamic areas such as the Bay Region have gradually adapted to endless hours of wasted time sitting in traffic. So the question becomes: how inclined will the millions who now work at home be to jump right back into the frustration of perpetually clogged roadways?

According to a recent article in Scientific American, greenhouse gas production in China is down by 25%. If travelers and others throughout the world found ways to reduce their automobile use, the planet and everything on it would benefit. While the petroleum plutocrats would be horrified, most of the rest of us might discover that the benefits of less auto travel outweighed the disadvantages.

3 thoughts on “Transportation: COVID-19, the Aftermath

  1. It is time to reconsider transportation finance. The last thing we need right now is another bump in the already high sales tax. When the virus scare began, the congestion problem went away when companies began encouraging staff to work from home at least part of the time. Let’s encourage more working at home when the virus scare is over. Higher sales tax would not be necessary if there were not as much demand.

    Over the last several elections, voters in Santa Clara County have passed multiple tax and fee increases including gas taxes, two bridge toll increases, three VTA sales taxes, Santa Clara County’s Measure A 1/8 cent sales tax, the state prop 30 ¼ cent sales tax and the 2010 Measure B Vehicle Registration Fee of $10. Additionally, we’re on the hook to pay back numerous state bond issues including high speed rail, the Proposition 1 water bond and the infrastructure bonds of 2006. Other Bay Area counties are burdened by equally high tax burdens.

    If money is tight, divert existing sales tax from the overpriced BART extension to San Jose (eliminate the Santa Clara portion) or raising taxes on the rich tech companies that are responsible for the congestion problem.


    • I couldn’t agree more. And it gets worse. Over the last four decades MTC, SFMTA, SFCTA, AC Transit, SMART SCVTA and the other Bay Area transit agencies have squandered an estimated $1.2 billion on assorted pet and parochial projects while doing virtually nothing to either improve the regional transit network or ease regional traffic. I hope you will join us. Much of our effort these days is devoted to hammering away at the financial mismanagement of Bay Area transit agencies. My address is: For more about BATWG go to Jerry Cauthen


    • Dear Steve,

      Sorry for the delay in responding to your thoughtful comment. After unsuccessfully trying to get our thoughts about the San Jose extension included in the San Jose Mercury and East Bay Times as an Op Ed, we finally got it out in BATWG Newsletter No. #29, which was distributed last week. (Admittedly our monitoring of comments wasn’t as consistent as it should have been). If you received a copy of the Newsletter, take a look at “The VTA’s BART Subway has gone off the Rails”. If you didn’t get it please send me an email and I’ll make sure you get a copy:

      Gerald Cauthen


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