Cars on busy road

National Links: Will Remote Work Mean More Driving?

Every day at The Overhead Wire, we collect news about cities and send the links to our email list. At the end of the week we take some of the most popular stories and post them to Greater Greater Washington, a group blog similar to that focuses on urban issues in the D.C. region. They are national links, sometimes entertaining and sometimes absurd, but hopefully useful.

Remote work is overrated, and cities will be back: Jerusalem Demsas interviews Enico Moretti, a labor and urban economics researcher at UC Berkeley, about his assertion that people won’t be working fully remotely in the long run. Moretti states that remote work will not be gutting urban centers because the economy creates dense clusters of high productivity workers, and this agglomeration trend will bounce back after the pandemic has subsided. (Jerusalem Demasas | Vox)

A zero carbon action plan for transportation: Transport and climate expert Dan Sperling is described as the “godfather of transportation and environmental policy” and argues that while we need to increase the use of electric vehicles, it’s also necessary to reduce vehicle miles traveled, two things that often are at odds with each other. In order to reduce emissions, we need to let neighborhoods decide what works best because they’ll all have different solutions. (Andrew Salzberg | Decarbonizing Transportation)

Vaccine tourism increasing local revenues: As Americans line up for the COVID vaccine, many residents are finding that they need to travel far from their homes for a shot, often to small, rural towns. This vaccine tourism has proven to be a boon for local hotels, restaurants, and grocery and retail stores that have been struggling for years and faring even worse during the pandemic. In some cases these places have seen a 20 percent bump in business. (Daniel Block | The Atlantic)

The myth and truth about interstate highways: This in-depth historical analysis traces the origins of federal highway policies, programs and projects. The central myth, states author Sarah Jo Peterson, allows policymakers to shrug off the damaging impacts of urban highway construction, particularly on the lives of generations of Black Americans. The myth busting is especially pertinent today as the current administrations seeks to right the wrongs of transportation policies past. (Sarah Jo Peterson | The Metropole)

Will telework actually increase driving?: As more people work from home, there is rising concern that the practice will cause longer commutes and more driving, not less. People who work in downtown offices walk to lunch or meetings, while teleworkers often drive to those appointments. As workers move to more remote locations thanks to work from home, their car trips will increase as well. Rhetoric around telework needs to reflect this reality, instead of being hailed as the panacea for traffic. (David Zipper | Slate)

Alissa Guther contributed to these summaries. Photo by Georg Arthur Pflueger on Unsplash.

Quote of the Week

“Biodiversity exists everywhere; even the smallest urban green spaces provide essential habitats for the most minute of species. If we manage to link those small spaces together, then the potential increases. Fortunately, we are seeing projects emerging in cities around the world that demonstrate the possibilities.”

Amanda Sturgeon in the Guardian discussing how we can re-wild our cities one little flower pot or small plot of land at a time.

This week on the podcast, Danielle Arigoni, AARP’s Director of Livable Communities, joins the show.

1 thought on “National Links: Will Remote Work Mean More Driving?

  1. Monte Castleman

    The idea that teleworking not really reducing VMT is something I find very credible. To be clear I don’t see VMT as a negative thing- after all it’s people enjoying the freedom to go where they want, when they want, and with the privacy and convivence they want. But topics like this are things I find interesting. Personally I’ve cut my own VMT from about 15,000 to 10,000 a year with teleworking. I still go out to lunch a couple of times a week, for round trips of about a mile and half to five miles. But the 15 miles round trip to the office every day is zeroed out and I’ve not changed any other habits except very indirectly, like maybe I’m more inclined to go lay out in the sun at the Valleyfair waterpark or go to the park for a bicycle ride if I’m working from home.

    It’s rather obvious that single family detached houses are highly desirable to a lot, probably most, people. It’s also obvious that being able to afford one that’s in reasonable shape in a safe area is a serious issue in the Twin Cities. I was fortunate to buy during the real estate nadir in the early 2010s so I can look at today’s train wreck as spectator, but now with teleworking “drive until you can afford it” creates a whole new reality. If you have under $200K to spend you’re basically looking at having to settle for a condo or maybe a small townhouse in the Twin Cities, but looking at Zillow for Albert Lea I found many of what appear to be serviceable 3 bedroom, 1-2 bath detached houses for $150K or less, In Wells, there’s a nice looking 3 bed, 3 bath, double garage listed for $78K. Suppose that today I were looking to buy a house, and bought in Albert Lea instead of Bloomington because that’s where I could afford a detached house, If I went to the Twin Cities once a week to go to Valleyfair, or the Mall of America, or shopping in general, or to visit friends and relatives that would immediately wipe out any VMT savings from teleworking.

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