A lot of modern jobs consist of sitting in front of a computer all day, sometimes emailing the person in the next cubicle (or has instant messaging replaced that now?) and phoning someone down the hall. All of this could be done from home, thanks to the internet, with many benefits to individuals, society and the environment. It's just a more elegant way of doing things."Despite slow growth in jobs and travel, traffic congestion continues to worsen, researchers say, costing Americans $63.1 billion a year. The 2005 Urban Mobility Report measures traffic congestion trends from 1982 to 2003, reflecting the most recent data available. If today’s higher fuel prices are factored in, the cost jumps another $1.7 billion." It's even worse than that because the UMS report doesn't seem to count the many health costs associated with stress, air pollution, etc. A good way to judge the gravity of these costs is to read this report by the World Health Organization (WHO). It states that by reducing air pollution in Europe (diesel is quite popular there) the EU could save 161 billion euros (approx. $204 billion US) per year from fewer diseases and deaths caused by bad air quality. It is estimated that air pollution reduces the life of Europeans by 8.6 months on average.
"The transboundary nature of PM [particulate matter] pollution requires that all countries take measures that will benefit the European [and world] population," said Roberto Bertollini, Director of the Special Programme on Health and Environment of the WHO, in the report I mentioned earlier.
This is serious stuff and telecommuting, along with better urban planning, clean energy sources and efficient transportation (public and private), is a partial solution that must not be underestimated. The International Telework Association & Council (ITAC) claimed last September that 44 million Americans worked from home in 2004, up 7.5% from 2003 despite (or because of) a slow economy. These people are burning less oil, putting less pollution in the air, stressing less about spending hours in traffic and not seeing their families, and lets not forget that telecommuting also increases the chance of employment for mothers with young children, the handicapped, people living in remote areas and other marginalized groups. Of course not all jobs can be done remotely, but in the "information society" the possibility should be given serious consideration.
If you live in the USA, you can see how your city ranks in traffic congestion by going here.
Trivia: The telecommuting motto is "work is something you do, not something you travel to." ::EU pollution deaths cost billions , ::ITAC, ::June 2004 WHO report, ::Solve the Gas Crisis by Working From Home and ::2005 UMS report.