Thursday, June 04, 2015

No paradox

I had previously posted that "Death of distance" and "Smartphone city" are not quite here yet. But is the glass half-full or half-empty? In 2013, 4.3% of U.S. workers reported that their primary place of work is the home. Growth in the number who report doing this is faster (and fast approaching) the number who commute via public transit -- and at vastly lower public expense. But some of these (hairdressers, child care workers, etc.) may have a home shop that does not involve "telework" of "telecommuting." Wendell Cox offers perspective on the U.S. trends here.

A new paper in the Journal of Transport and Land Use (ungated) by Glenn Lyons is worth reading. The author uses UK data which includes the various ways of teleworking. The more expansive definition shows 33.1% doing so in 1997 and 58.7% in 2010. But the author is after much bigger game. This is how he begins:
This paper contends that a fundamental transition is occurring in those societies which have hitherto embraced and centralized the motorcar and which are now (also) embracing the digital age. It suggests that we are some years into a process of gradual yet significant change away from the car as a foreground innovation in human connectivity with its important symbolic as well as functional meaning. This change is taking us into a recast form of society brought about by the affordances of the digital age revolution in which the car is set to become a background, functionally supporting technology. It will be accompanied and overshadowed by a much greater richness in forms of being able to reach people, goods, services and opportunities made possible by information and communications technologies (ICTs). Car dependence will abate as the spatial and temporal configurations of social and economic participation in society become more flexible. This will have major implications for our transport and land use systems. 
Lyons believes that, "we are in the middle of a regime change transition for transport." (p. 13). Perhaps. Cities change slowly but changing lifestyles are another matter. But that's OK. We may have passed "peak car" and "peak VMT; Lyons even sees a "low-carbon transition." People who are able to visit a place of work less frequently can tolerate greater distances. This means more suburbanization. But that is very old. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.