Feds Seek Incentives to Encourage Driving - Employers Should Promote Tele-Commuting Instead
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in its latest guidelines for the re-opening of office buildings, has proposed that employers incentivize single-occupancy driving to reduce the spread of COVID-19-- a recommendation that flies in the face of both climate change policies and recent experiences in transit-rich cities around the world, which have kept infection rates low by promoting widespread mask use on trains and buses, even as transit ridership remains high.
"The guideline is especially troubling when compared with the World Health Organization’s workplace safety recommendations, which most nations outside the U.S. consider the gold standard for public health advisement," as reported in an article in Streetsblog USA. "Those absolutely do not recommend that employers provide structural incentives for car commuting — ostensibly because the United Nations agency recognizes that driving itself poses a major public health risk."
Streetsblog USA cites statistics showing that in Seoul, Korea and Beijing, China, transit ridership had already reached four million rides per day by early April as infection rates remained low. In Japan, which has the third highest-rate of transit ridership in the world, officials have not been able to link a single COVID-19 infection to commuter trains.
“If San Francisco retreats in a fear-based way to private cars, the city dies with that, including the economy,” said San Francisco MTA director Jeffrey Tumlin, as quoted in the Streetsblog article. “Why? Because we can’t move more cars. That’s a fundamental geometrical limit. We can’t move more cars in the space we have.”
To avoid the climate change impacts of increased single-occupancy driving in a post-COVID world, not to mention gridlock congestion and traffic safety issues, the Bay Area must be a leader in actively incentivizing tele-commuting for those who are able, as well as making public transit a safe option for workers who must continue to commute.
Santa Clara County, in partnership with the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, has taken the lead by proposing programs to incentivize tele-commuting for public and private employers after shelter-in-place ends. BARC supports this effort and encourages other regions across the Bay Area to explore similar initiatives.