The Brooklyn, the Golden Gate, the Sydney Harbour….. name a bridge leading to a major city and anyone who drives over it during peak hour will know the pain. In fact driving on any major roadway towards a Central Business District is generally a horrible experience. I read this article today about Australia blowing its luck as the lucky country largely due to traffic and transport issues. The pending urban congestion disaster. Well, as far as I can tell, the congestion disaster is already in most large cities. The reason it has never been fixed, and will never be fixed by wider roads and more public transport, is that transport is not the problem.
The real issues are two fold:
- People starting work at roughly the same time each day.
- People working in the same place.
The resulting transport issues are symptoms.
If governments wanted to solve the problem, they wouldn’t waste billions upgrading roads and bridges, they’d be creating corporate and personal tax incentives to work from home, and create a cultural shift away from ‘official’ business hours. Problem solved with a near zero infrastructure expense.
It’s times like this we need to remember why these problems arose in the first place. When officework first arrived as an addendum to industrialization, we didn’t have the ability to telecommute and office equipment was very expensive. So we centralised. When office hours first arose, it was because we needed the sun to literally shine in the windows so we could do our work in a pre-electricity era. The last time I looked, we all had electricity, we could work any time of the day, and telecommuting now comes at near zero cost. So I’m wondering why we let yesterday’s technology define how, when and where we work today?
The average city worker spends an entire work day travelling each week – that’s 48 work days a year in a car. Having to go to the office every work day is legacy thinking with very high social and financial costs. I’m hoping it’s something we can overcome by simply trusting employees and leveraging the technology anyone who is reading this blog post already owns.