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The Quiet Success: Telecommuting's Impact on Transportation and Beyond

Telecommuting is the only commute mode, besides single occupancy driving, that has increased its market share since 1980. According to a November 2005 Reason Foundation study, "The Quiet Success: Telecommuting's Impact On Transportation And Beyond", telecommuting is uniquely suited to compete with solo driving to and from work. No matter how fast driving alone might be, it will never be faster than avoiding the trip entirely.

Telecommuting relieves congestion relief by creating additional highway capacity by taking cars off the road. The study found that telecommuting has a considerable effect on traffic, with a 10 percent reduction in delays for every 3 percent of commuters who work at home during peak travel times. Citing census data that says telecommuters are more likely to be car owners, the study reasons that if the option to telecommute were to suddenly disappear most telecommuters would be likely to start driving alone in their cars again.

The widespread growth of telecommuting is well documented. U.S. Census Bureau Journey-to-Work figures for 2000 count 4.2 million Americans as at-home workers. This accounts for 3.3 percent of the work trip market share, with the number who usually worked at home growing by 23 percent between 1990 and 2000. Telecommuting has continued to grow in popularity since 2000. According to the U.S. Census Bureau's 2003 American Community Survey 4.2 million Americans telecommute most work days, with 20 million telecommuting at least once per month, and 45 million telecommuting at least once per year.

Telecommuters now actually outnumber transit commuters in a majority of the 50 most populous metropolitan areas including places like San Diego, Dallas and Phoenix. In Oklahoma City, telecommuters outnumber transit riders by nearly five to one and outnumber transit commuters by more than two to one in places like Raleigh-Durham, Tampa-St. Petersburg and Nashville.

Most of the top telecommuting metropolitan areas tend to be fast-growing regions with high concentrations of technologically savvy workers who feel comfortable using the Internet and other tools common to remote work. Denver, Portland and San Diego are the top three telecommuting metropolitan areas (as measured by the percentage of workforce that telecommutes). Atlanta and Washington, D.C. lead the nation in telecommuting growth, yet the study says every major metropolitan area has experienced strong growth.

Various trends, from the expansion of telecommuting friendly technology to the increase in telecommuting friendly professions, leaves telecommuting poised for future growth.

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