The rise in telecommuting is the unmistakable message of the just released 2009 American Community Survey data. The technical term is working at home, however the strong growth in this market is likely driven by telecommuting, as people use information technology and communications technology to perform jobs that used to require being in the office.
Working at home is fast closing the gap with transit. In part driven by the surge in energy prices since earlier in the decade, transit experienced its first increase since data was first collected by the Bureau of the Census in 1960. Yet working at home is growing more rapidly, and closing the gap, from 1.7 million fewer workers than transit in 2000 to only 1.0 million fewer in 2009. At the current rate, more people could be working at home than riding transit by 2017. This is already the case in much of the country outside the New York metropolitan area, which represents a remarkable 39 percent of the nation’s transit commuters. Taking New York out of the picture, 31% more people (1.35 million) worked at home than traveled by transit, more than 4 times the 7% difference in 2000 (Table 1, click for additional information).
Working at Home Leaps Above Transit In Portland and Elsewhere: Perhaps most surprising is the fact that Portland now has more people working at home than riding transit to work. This is a significant development. Portland is a model "smart growth" having spent at least $5 billion additional on light rail and bus expansions over the last 25 years. Portland was joined by other metropolitan areas Houston, Miami-West Palm Beach, New Orleans and San Jose, all of which have spent heavily on urban rail systems. Working at home also passed transit in Cincinnati, Hartford, Las Vegas, Raleigh and San Antonio.