Over the past 30 years, at the same time the percentage of commuters driving has flatlined, the share of people working from home has exploded, almost doubling since 1980. Telecommuting is controversial — some suggest it increases productivity while others maintain the value of offices — but it is gaining popularity no matter its merits.
More than just affecting the way people work, the increasing ease of telecommuting will dramatically affect the way we adapt our urban transportation systems. Indeed, an increase in working from home might suggest that we have less to fear about the future of traffic congestion than we might have believed.
Since 1980, the share of Americans telecommuting every day has increased from 2.3 percent to 4.4 percent in 2012. The U.S. Census Bureau, moreover, reports that 9.4 percent of people now work from home at least one day a week, up from 7 percent in 1994. (This trend is global; in the United Kingdom, telework increased by 13 percent between 2007 and 2012 and now represents about a tenth of the workforce.)