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Telecommuting and environmental policy - lessons from the Ecommute program

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  • Margaret Walls
  • Peter Nelson

    ()

  • Elena Safirova

    ()

Abstract

In 1999 US Congress passed the National Air Quality and Telecommuting Act. This Act established pilot telecommuting programs (Ecommute) in five major US metropolitan areas with the express purpose of studying the feasibility of addressing air quality concerns through telecommuting. The major goal of the Ecommute program was to examine whether a particular type of economic incentive, tradable emissions credits from telecommuting, represents a viable strategy for reducing vehicle miles traveled (VMT) and improving air quality. Under the Ecommute program, companies could generate emissions credits by reducing the VMT of their workforce through telework programs. They would then be able to sell the credits to firms that needed the reductions to comply with air quality regulations. The paper provides analysis of the results of Ecommute program. First, we establish some context for evaluating whether the envisioned trading scheme represents a feasible approach to reducing mobile source emissions and promoting telecommuting and review the limited experience with mobile source emissions trading programs. We find that from a regulatory perspective, the most substantial drawback to such a program is its questionable environmental integrity, resulting from difficulties in designing a sufficiently rigorous quantification protocols to accurately measure the emissions reductions from telecommuting. And perhaps more importantly, such a program is not likely to be cost-effective since the emissions reductions from a single telecommuter are very small. The paper also presents the first analysis of data collected from the Ecommute program. Using two-and-one-half years of data, we look at telecommuting frequency, mode choice, and emissions reductions as well as at reporting behavior and dropout rates. Finally, we use the program's emissions reductions findings to calculate how much telecommuting would be needed to reach an annual volatile organic compounds emission reduction target in each city.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by European Regional Science Association in its series ERSA conference papers with number ersa05p801.

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Date of creation: Aug 2005
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Handle: RePEc:wiw:wiwrsa:ersa05p801

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References

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  1. Burtraw, Dallas & Palmer, Karen, 2003. "The Paparazzi Take a Look at a Living Legend: The SO2 Cap-and-Trade Program for Power Plants in the United States," Discussion Papers, Resources For the Future dp-03-15, Resources For the Future.
  2. Stavins, Robert N., 2003. "Experience with market-based environmental policy instruments," Handbook of Environmental Economics, Elsevier, in: K. G. Mäler & J. R. Vincent (ed.), Handbook of Environmental Economics, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 9, pages 355-435 Elsevier.
  3. Nelson, Per-Kristian, 2004. "Emissions Trading with Telecommuting Credits: Regulatory Background and Institutional Barriers," Discussion Papers, Resources For the Future dp-04-45, Resources For the Future.
  4. Kitamura, Ryuichi & Mokhtarian, Patricia L. & Pendyala, Ram M., 1991. "An Evaluation of Telecommuting As a Trip Reduction Measure," University of California Transportation Center, Working Papers qt8rg5f9s8, University of California Transportation Center.
  5. Safirova, Elena & Gillingham, Kenneth & Houde, Sébastien, 2007. "Measuring marginal congestion costs of urban transportation: Do networks matter?," Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 41(8), pages 734-749, October.
  6. Henderson, Dennis & Mohktarian, Patricia, 1996. "Impacts of Center-Based Telecommuting on Travel and Emissions: Analysis of the Puget Sound Demonstration Project," Institute of Transportation Studies, Working Paper Series, Institute of Transportation Studies, UC Davis qt3tt6d46w, Institute of Transportation Studies, UC Davis.
  7. Mokhtarian, Patricia L & Koenig, Brett E & Henderson, Dennis K, 1995. "The Travel and Emissions Impacts of Telecommuting for the State of California Telecommuting Pilot Project," University of California Transportation Center, Working Papers qt6rw695kc, University of California Transportation Center.
  8. Sangho Choo & Patricia Mokhtarian & Ilan Salomon, 2005. "Does telecommuting reduce vehicle-miles traveled? An aggregate time series analysis for the U.S," Transportation, Springer, Springer, vol. 32(1), pages 37-64, January.
  9. Walls, Margaret & Nelson, Per-Kristian, 2004. "Telecommuting and Emissions Reductions: Evaluating Results from the ecommute Program," Discussion Papers, Resources For the Future dp-04-42, Resources For the Future.
  10. Pizer, William & Kruger, Joseph, 2004. "The EU Emissions Trading Directive: Opportunities and Potential Pitfalls," Discussion Papers, Resources For the Future dp-04-24, Resources For the Future.
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