The Murky Case for Mass Telecommuting

An article in Bloomberg CityLab highlights the 60% telecommute strategy recently added to Plan Bay Area 2050, and some criticism around the proposed mandate. At its September 23rd meeting, BARC member agency the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) proposed, as one of 35 strategies in Plan Bay Area 2050, that large office-based employers should have a minimum of 60% of employees work remotely on any given workday by 2050. The strategy is intended to help reduce the region's greenhouse gas emissions by decreasing vehicle miles travelled (VMT), and is one piece of a broader 30-year plan that also prescribes a major investments in transit, roads, and housing.

MTC Commissioner Nick Josefowitz said that the telecommute mandate would end up punishing workers who "share crowded homes with roommates and family members, especially in an exorbitantly expensive housing market with scant inventory", according to the article. "He also questioned the emphasis on telecommuting rather than on non-polluting modes of transport, and warned of impacts on businesses and government coffers that rely on daily infusions of workers".

Other experts have said that while telecommuting may be a stopgap strategy, reducing VMT must ultimately be done with land use. 

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf was more supportive of the strategy, highlighting that the pandemic presented an opportunity for transformational change. "“Now is the time we can do this in a way that is least disruptive to business," said Schaaf.

The Murky Case for Mass Telecommuting, Bloomberg CityLab