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The unasked question is why must people commute to the center cities to work?

When manufacturing was concentrated in certain locales then it made sense to have the workforce travel towards this area. Many factory centers were based upon geographic conditions like ports or rivers used for water power.

Most cities have little heavy industry any more and probably not much light manufacturing either. A firm that sells expertise (consulting, advertising, marketing, finance, etc.) can be located anywhere. In fact much of its staff doesn't have to visit the office to get work done either.

I live in the oldest suburb in America, Long Island. It was developed in large part right after WWII to provide homes to returning servicemen and their expanding families. Before this much of it was potato fields. Before this the north shore had been the site of summer homes for millionaires who wanted to escape the heat and have someplace to send their families during the hot spells. This is the image that the "Great Gatsby" tries to portray.

To aid in development there were a series of parallel railroad tracks run starting in the mid 19th century from east to west, each about 5 miles north or south of the next. The intent was clear - move people from the suburbs to midtown Manhattan.

Until about 20 years ago auto traffic paralleled the railroads. The Long Island Expressway just added a fourth lane in each direction to accommodate rising traffic.

The interesting thing is that about 50% of the auto traffic is now from one part of the island to another and not into NYC. There are similar instances elsewhere. Stamford Connecticut and other nearby cities now have many of the office facilities that would have been in Manhattan previously.

Decentralized office parks are now common, but the need for mass transit to service them from suburban sprawl has not been addressed. In fact, there seems to be no simple way to handle this type of dispersed traffic pattern.

It seems that the concept of "going to the office" needs to be rethought for many professions.

Policies not Politics
---- Daily Landscape

by rdf (robert.feinman@gmail.com) on Fri Jun 13th, 2008 at 01:59:19 PM EST
The unasked question is why must people commute to the center cities to work?

The interesting thing is that about 50% of the auto traffic is now from one part of the island to another and not into NYC. There are similar instances elsewhere. Stamford Connecticut and other nearby cities now have many of the office facilities that would have been in Manhattan previously.

Decentralized office parks are now common, but the need for mass transit to service them from suburban sprawl has not been addressed. In fact, there seems to be no simple way to handle this type of dispersed traffic pattern.

You answered your own question. It's true that telecommuting could handle some of that, but plenty of people will either have to or prefer going into an office. From what my friends say, working from when you have kids is pretty bad for your productivity, and some just find it difficult under any circumstances. If you live alone it can be pretty isolating. And my impression is that the bulk of the most recent office development outside the City has been either way, way out (dirt cheap) or in the satellite urban areas like Jersey City, Bridgeport or Stamford which have rail.

by MarekNYC on Fri Jun 13th, 2008 at 02:15:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
From what my friends say, working from when you have kids is pretty bad for your productivity, and some just find it difficult under any circumstances.

When I was a graduate student I had a choice of working in my flat, in my office or in the library (as well as some other places). Sometimes I preferred to be in the library even if my office was quiet, just because the location influences your attitude to work.

Nowadays I also find too many distractions when working at home, and when I have to work from home because of the child I get very little done.

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Jun 13th, 2008 at 02:37:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
A few years ago IBM set up empty office suits. They were equipped with phones, copy machines, computers, etc., but no staff.

When you needed office services you went to one of these sites and took over a cubicle for the day. Everything was networked so you could do whatever you would have done from your home base (which was eliminated).

I don't know if this caught on, or whether it still exists, but I don't think the main idea was ecological, it was to make workers feel even more interchangeable and dispensable. It also prevented building up any community of labor, especially when IBM was trashing its existing benefits packages.

I think they partially lost an anti-discrimination suit over some of these practices.

Policies not Politics
---- Daily Landscape

by rdf (robert.feinman@gmail.com) on Fri Jun 13th, 2008 at 03:02:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
An office isn't simply a desk and a computer - it's a place where you form social relations that serve as help on your job, informal coordination, and a motivating social environment. Many people's productivity would be greatly diminished if they were not motivated by the constant overlook of their peers...

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères
by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Fri Jun 13th, 2008 at 03:08:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I always find the opposite - I'm roughly twice as productive at home as I would be in an office, and the lack of commute time is also a big plus.

Offices are where people gossip, plot politics, run covert popularity contests, intrude on each other's sonic space with phone calls, typing, radios, and other distractions, and waste time in unproductive meetings.

They're fine if you score in the top couple of standard deviations on extraversion, but for anyone who needs a quieter environment they're unpleasant white collar battery farms.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Fri Jun 13th, 2008 at 03:17:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You happen to live alone, right?

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Jun 13th, 2008 at 03:38:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Do you like what you are working on or don't you ?

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères
by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Fri Jun 13th, 2008 at 04:00:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Also, is it the kind of work that can be done by a single person?

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Jun 13th, 2008 at 04:09:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I like some of what I do, and don't like other parts. I spend a fair amount of time on email and the phone. There are collaborative elements where I have to agree things with other people, or make plans or suggestions, or decide deadlines.

I'm not doing a lot that I wouldn't be doing in an office - but I am dealing with a small number of people one to one instead of trying to get decisions by committee, and I also have the time and space to get on with projects without distractions.

I have occasionally worked on-site for half a day or a day, and I always find that whatever I'm trying to do takes at least twice as long.

I think offices work for campus-style collaborations, or for studios of various kinds. But considering the commuting, energy and building costs required to run an office, I'm not so convinced that they're excellent value for money for most people.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Fri Jun 13th, 2008 at 04:31:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It was the social relations that IBM was trying to prevent, the unions and the pending class action suit were foremost in their mind at the time.

Do people who collaborate remotely as on this site feel alone? I probably have more in common with bloggers I've never met than with many of my neighbors. (It's hard to tell, most of them never stick their heads out of their houses.)

Policies not Politics
---- Daily Landscape

by rdf (robert.feinman@gmail.com) on Fri Jun 13th, 2008 at 04:15:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
rdf:
A few years ago IBM set up empty office suits.

Weren't empty suits always a key part of IBM culture?

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Fri Jun 13th, 2008 at 03:12:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think IBM was famous for gray flannel suits.

Policies not Politics
---- Daily Landscape
by rdf (robert.feinman@gmail.com) on Fri Jun 13th, 2008 at 04:12:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The metropolitan area of Finland is served by trams (city + close suburbs) buses (both radial and webbed), trains (radial, but some cross routes) and metro (center and East). Business developments (even way out to the edges) have focused on nodes where several means of mass transport intersect.

Parking area meters are everywhere. You walk to a single dispenser of tickets and then return to the car to display them. You can decide the length of your stay and pay according to the zone. Neither the parking areas nor commercial parking is cheap. Parking anywhere else can be expensive - unless is it raining and the LappuLiisat (wardens) stay indoors.

There are also park and ride areas outside the city.

Helsinki city has suffered with more and more cars coming in, and their are moves to either increase the cost of parking or even consider tolls.

At some point in the future the metro will also extend West as it is now formally decided by both Helsinki City and Espoo City.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Fri Jun 13th, 2008 at 02:22:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Finnish business life would probably survive even if all private cars disappeared.

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Fri Jun 13th, 2008 at 02:24:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Indeed, transporting people to the center is not what causes problems in the Paris area. That's the way the transportation system was set up a hundred years ago. And the advantages of centralised office space are many : prestige of the address, attraction of the workplace to workers, easiness of commercial and organisational networking - most people spend most of their working time interacting with people rather than in front of a screen, actually.

And I believe the wealthier portion of the work force is getting the nicer offices, in Paris or La Défence, whereas those with lower wages and prestige get relegated to those faceless "office concentrations" which are not connected to public transportation. And thus the public transportation in the suburbs problem is not only about efficiency and environment, but also social equality : the lower wage workers have to spend more money and time commuting.

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères

by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Fri Jun 13th, 2008 at 03:01:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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