Synthesizing Research on Telecommuting and Metropolitan Spatial Structure

Research Lead: Jae Hong Kim

UC Campus(es): UC Irvine

Problem Statement: It remains unclear how telecommuting may change business and household location choices, land use patterns, and metropolitan spatial structure, which will in turn will impact transportation planning. Conflicting views exist among scholars—telecommuting has often been viewed as a promising work-home arrangement that can contribute to addressing traffic congestion, air pollution, and other chronic urban issues (as well benefitting both workers and employers), but there have been concerns it may encourage residential decentralization (often called “telesprawl”) that can work against the prospect of more environmentally-friendly compact development. Furthermore, transportation planners and policy makers lack information on how to address the unpredictable rise of telecommuting in their short and long-range transportation planning.

Project Description: This project will inform transportation planning and other policy decision-making bodies by examining the implications from the rise of telecommuting by synthesizing two sets of studies on telecommuting and its consequences: 1) micro-level studies that examine the effects of telecommuting on individual households and business establishments, and 2) macro-level studies that assesses the consequences of telecommuting from a system-wide perspective. Micro-level studies focus on the residential location choice of telecommuters and their travel behavior, and how decisions where to locate an can be affected when a business adopts teleworking. Some of these micro-level studies have examined social equity issues such as why some people telework, whereas others don’t or can’t, shedding light on the uneven distribution of telecommuting. Macro-level studies consider the impacts of telecommuting on land use patterns and urban spatial structure, energy saving, reducing vehicle miles travelled (VMT) and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. These broader studies inform how the rise of telecommuting may reshape the workings of the entire urban/regional system over a long period of time.

Status: In Progress

Budget: $24,362

Project Partner(s): Southern California Association of Governments