The Overhead Wire Daily | June 27th | Work Week Transportation

June 27, 2024

Barcelona Metropolis shares the idea of moving to a four day work week in hopes of increasing the amount of leisure time people have, which in turn could boost civic participation and reduce emissions from transportation. They took note of a month in Valencia Spain in holidays in the month of April meant four weeks with four day work weeks. Nitrogen oxide pollution in the city decreased 58%.

I wonder how closely related this idea is to the shift in work from home that was accelerated by the pandemic. And while less work days isn’t quite the same as work from home, it will be interesting to see what the meta results are of this new paradigm from a transportation standpoint.

INRIX released a report ranking cities by congestion, which I tend to take with a grain of salt, but what is interesting at the moment is how many newspaper reporters sharing those rankings note how people believe traffic congestion is worse now than before the pandemic.

We talked with Tracy Hadden Loh on the Mpact podcast recently (out today on Talking Headways) and she mentioned something similar, that total travel demand had increased but the demand for the office specific commute which transit was set up to serve had decreased.

It makes me wonder why travel demand is up and whether it has to do with a lot of people running errands from home in their sprawling neighborhood instead of in an urban setting with more services accessible by active transportation. I don’t have any data of course but what if work from home actually generates more VMT as opposed to less? That could mean more driving and of course as we’re seeing around the country, 80% of pre-pandemic transit use as people aren’t taking as many of those long commutes per week.

About 14 years ago when I was at Reconnecting America, we did a deep data dive with our Center for TOD partners on how transit station area types connected to VMT. What was interesting from that report looking at every station in the United States, was how putting more people in an existing low VMT place had a greater impact on driving reductions than building more housing units in an already high VMT place. Now that we’re taking people out of dense downtowns and they are staying home, we could be seeing this modeled VMT shift in real life.

We might also see regional differences as people in places that facilitate more active transportation are taking those trips, and people that are in auto-centric places increase car trips. I can imagine for example that New York City or Barcelona would have different results than say Phoenix or Atlanta.

But it’s something to think about. What are the results of work from home or a shorter work week, and are they sustainable? I look forward to seeing that data.


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