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The Impact of Telecommuting on the Commute Time, Distance, and Speed of State of California Workers

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Abstract

Using retrospective data collected from a survey of more than 200 State of California workers, including current, former, and non-telecommuters, this study analyzes the relationship between telecommuting and commute time, distance, and speed over the ten-year period from 1988 to 1998. We find that telecommuters consistently live farther from work (in terms of time and distance) compared to former and future telecommuters. These longer one-way distances are ameliorated, however, by telecommuters traveling at higher speeds and commuting less frequently than their counterparts, with an end result of telecommuters commuting fewer person-miles and person-minutes, on average. About 70% of the commute time savings can be attributed to the faster speeds, with the remainder due to the lower distances traveled. Interestingly, in the aggregate, those who telecommute at some point in the ten-year period average slightly (2.6%) more commute person-miles traveled (although 4.4% less time) over the decade (even with the reductions offered by telecommuting) than those who do not telecommute at all. This finding suggests either that telecommuting is at best an ineffective travel reduction policy (i.e. those who engage in it do not travel any less) or that telecommuting disproportionately attracts those who would otherwise commute even more (making it an effective tool). A companion study addresses this question and finds that the latter explanation is the stronger one.

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