Conventional wisdom about social and economic behavior holds that the use of telecommunications is a natural substitute for transportation. For example, telephone calls can replace travel to meetings, and facsimile or electronic-mail transmission of documents substitutes for courier or postal delivery. The moving of information can replace the moving of people and goods. Vehicle traffic on the national transportation infrastructure can be replaced by digital traffic on what is now called the National Information Infrastructure (NII).

A leading example is telecommuting. This means using telecommunications to replace commuting between home and work. Telecommuting is an optional way of expanding employees' work locations in those circumstances where it yields both improved organizational performance and employee satisfaction. Telecommuting accounts for 7.6 million U.S. workers as of early 1993, up 15% from the 6.6 million counted in 1992. The growth of telecommuting has been strong for the past five years. No one has identified any reasons to suggest that this growth will abate in the foreseeable future.

The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) estimates that telecommuting by the year 2002 will reduce the annual total vehicle miles traveled (VMT) by 0.7-1.4% below the level expected to be seen if there were no telecommuting. A follow-up study by the U.S. Department of Energy (USDOE) found reasons why the reduction in mileage from telecommuting is likely to be even less. Nevertheless, the USDOT forecast of the travel reduction from telecommuting implies a total ongoing savings after ten years that is less than the 1.8% average annual growth in driving forecast by USDOE. This relatively small impact is explained by these factors: telecommuters are a minority of workers; telecommuting is usually a part-time practice that does not occur on the majority of work days; telecommuting is normally a temporary practice that depends on personal and employer circumstances; and commuting is a minority and decreasing share of the many purposes of surface travel even during peak rush hour periods.

Click on a button to view a section of the Overview:

Beyond Telecommuting
Telecommunications as a Travel Substitute
From Substitution to Stimulation
Travel Stimulation Effects
Telecommunications -- Transportation Interaction Model
Effect of Improvements in the National Information Infrastructure
The New Paradigm
Recommendations for Government Policy

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