Spatial Implications of Telecommuting in the United States

If the 2020 surge in working from home became permanent, how would the distribution of jobs and residents within and across U.S. cities change? What would be the effect on the demand for commuting and freight transport? The research team will address these questions using a quantitative spatial equilibrium model of on-site and remote worker location choice and transport demand in the contiguous United States.

In order to assess the potential medium and long-run impact of these changes on the demand for transportation, a sufficiently-detailed quantitative spatial equilibrium model is essential. Any decline in commuting resulting from increased remote work is likely to be very heterogeneous across commuting routes. Moreover, as workers reposition themselves within cities, demand for some routes could actually increase. Such a major change in the technology of work may also trigger significant reallocations of jobs and residents across cities. Because of this, some areas may see their demand for all kinds of transport increase.

The research team will build a quantitative spatial model of the contiguous United States. It will be informed by data on telecommuting potential for different industries and occupations, as well as detailed geographic data on transport infrastructure, observed commuting flows, wages, real estate prices, and education levels. This will allow the model to make predictions about the reallocation of jobs and workers both within and across U.S. metro areas, and the resulting changes in transport demand, under a number of plausible long-run remote-working scenarios. In particular, we will be able to make predictions for California and its major metropolitan areas, such as Los Angeles, San Francisco-SanJose, Riverside-San Bernardino, San Diego, and Sacramento.

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