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Telecommuting, residential location, and commute-distance traveled: evidence from State of California employees

Listed author(s):
  • Patricia L Mokhtarian
  • Gustavo O Collantes
  • Carsten Gertz

This study analyzes retrospective data on telecommuting and residential and job location changes over a ten-year period, from 218 employees (62 current telecommuters, 35 former telecommuters, and 121 people who had never telecommuted) of six California state government agencies which had actively participated in the well-known pilot program of 1988 - 90. We compare estimates of the total commute person-miles traveled by telecommuters with those of nontelecommuters, on a quarterly basis. Key findings include the following. One-way commute distances were higher for telecommuters than for nontelecommuters, consistent with prior empirical evidence and with expectation. Average telecommuting frequency declined over time; several explanations are proposed, but cannot be properly tested with these data. The first two findings notwithstanding, the average quarterly per capita total commute distances were generally lower for telecommuters than for nontelecommuters, indicating that they telecommute often enough to more than compensate for their longer one-way commutes. We cannot say from these results whether the ability to telecommute is itself prompting individuals to move farther away, or whether telecommuting is simply more attractive to people who already live farther from work for other reasons. Even if the first is true, however, and telecommuting is the 'problem', it also appears to be the solution: that is, it enables people to achieve a desired but more distant residential location without a net increase in commute travel.

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Article provided by Pion Ltd, London in its journal Environment and Planning A.

Volume (Year): 36 (2004)
Issue (Month): 10 (October)
Pages: 1877-1897

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Handle: RePEc:pio:envira:v:36:y:2004:i:10:p:1877-1897
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  1. Mokhtarian, Patricia L. & Handy, Susan L. & Salomon, Ilan, 1995. "Methodological issues in the estimation of the travel, energy, and air quality impacts of telecommuting," Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, Elsevier, vol. 29(4), pages 283-302, July.
  2. Ingrid Gould Ellen & Katherine Hempstead, 2002. "Telecommuting and the Demand for Urban Living: A Preliminary Look at White-collar Workers," Urban Studies, Urban Studies Journal Limited, vol. 39(4), pages 749-766, April.
  3. Qing Shen, 2000. "New telecommunications and residential location flexibility," Environment and Planning A, Pion Ltd, London, vol. 32(8), pages 1445-1463, August.
  4. Patricia L. Mokhtarian, 1998. "A Synthetic Approach to Estimating the Impacts of Telecommuting on Travel," Urban Studies, Urban Studies Journal Limited, vol. 35(2), pages 215-241, February.
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