Every urban area goes through two hectic periods every day, when people commute to work and when they return home. These rush hours don’t just wear on the mental and physical health of those commuting (though they certainly do that, too), but they’re also quite expensive. Urban planners have to build roads and public transit systems to account for peak load; by reducing that peak, and attempting to average out congestion a bit over the day, municipalities could save a lot of money. At least, that’s the thinking behind a new start-up that, as Quartz reports, wants cities to provide financial incentives for commuters to travel in off-peak times:
Urban Engines is a new start-up making the case for skipping rush hour all together. Even better, they’d like to convince your city to pay you to do so. The company uses network analysis systems developed for internet traffic to understand where and why congestion occurs, and it is pressing cities around the world to reward commuters who ease it. […]The people behind Urban Engines think that cities should use this data to alleviate congestion, by offering travel credit on metro cards to riders who schedule their trips during less-congested times of the day. Interested riders would sign up for the program online, and receive alerts via an app when train platforms or bus stops are reach peak congestion levels. “In a nutshell, commuters earn points for off-peak travel,” CEO Shivakumar told Quartz.
Sure, many employers won’t want their employees to roll in at 11 a.m., and plenty of employees won’t be happy working till 9 p.m. But for some, this option could work, and creative thinking like this will be vital for both cities and employers who want to stay globally competitive and continue to attract top talent.But there’s an even better solution that wouldn’t just shuffle around when people commute, but would cut the commute out altogether: telework. Working remotely makes more sense with every passing day as the developed world transitions towards an information economy less predicated on the manipulation of “stuff” and less tied down to specific physical locations. Telework would cut down on infrastructure spending by significantly decreasing both the peak load and the wear and tear on urban systems. And the productivity and public health gains it would bring would be considerable.