With a vaccine for Covid-19 in sight, San Jose city leaders are looking to join the Bay Area Air Quality Management District’s (BAAQMD) “Cut the Commute” campaign to help maintain clean air, lessen the impacts of climate change and reduce traffic congestion.
In the first seven weeks of the coronavirus pandemic, the air quality management district found that there was a 32 percent reduction in CO2 emissions in the region due to remote work. And for the first three months of the shelter-in-place order, vehicle miles traveled in the Bay Area decreased by approximately seventy percent.
But as more people start physically going back to their day jobs, the district wants companies to prolong telecommuting by at least 25 percent—or one to two days a week—for employees who can work remotely.
On Tuesday, the San Jose City Council will consider joining the pledge as an organization of more than 6,000 employees.
“In light of Covid-19, we have been given the opportunity to rethink and improve efficiencies in some of our programs, processes and daily activities,” Vice Mayor Chappie Jones and Councilwoman Sylvia Arenas wrote in a memo. “Considering the city of San Jose has already significantly invested in making large-scale remote work feasible during the pandemic, it would be a natural action for the city of San Jose to join the regional effort to Cut the Commute and do its part in contributing to the continued reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.”
Aside from cleaner air, BAAQMD says that the benefits of remote work include safer roads, a reduction in real estate and construction costs, improved quality of life and better disaster preparedness.
For those not able to work remotely, Jones and Arenas want the city to consider expanding its Commuter Benefit Program to help promote carpool, the use of transit passes and other types of transportation.
The Bay Area Air Quality Management District’s pledge differs from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission’s work-from-home proposal that would require employers with more than 25 workers to have 60 percent of their employees telecommute.
“Such a mandate could have concerning effects on the economics of downtown businesses, the disproportionate burdens on those who can’t afford spacious living and remote work conditions and potentially may disincentivize development and use of low carbon transportation options such as public transit, biking or walking,” Mayor Sam Liccardo, Jones and Arenas wrote in a separate memo.
The council colleagues said the Cut the Commute pledge also aligns with the city’s goals of “improving sustainability, reducing green house gas emissions and supporting employee wellness and work-life balance.”