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?
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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.