From left, Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez and San Jose Water Company CEO Eric Thornburg took the “Cut the Commute” pledge Monday, which will work to reduce emissions and increase productivity. Photo by Katie Lauer.
Notably grueling Silicon Valley commutes have been slashed dramatically as the COVID-19 pandemic rages on.
While working from home presents its own unique challenges, Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez wants to transition this aspect of social distancing into the post-COVID-19 life, a move she says will maintain productivity while decreasing climate impacts.
Chavez announced a pledge to “Cut the Commute” Monday – when many new businesses were finally able to reopen – to provide options for blending working from home and offices, which helps everyone reclaim time previously spent in traffic while making for better air quality and cleaner skies.
“Even after the pandemic of the coronavirus, it doesn’t have to be business as usual, especially in terms of how we work and how often we get in our cars,” Chavez said. “Without the congestion on the freeways and the bumper-to-bumper traffic, you can see the surroundings of our mountains, we see more animals, we see more opportunities to engage with our families. The air is fresh, and our eyes and our lungs are not burning.”
Chavez said the environmental benefits of working from home are clear: Bay Area CO2 emissions dropped by 32% in the first seven weeks of the crisis in March. Bay Area traffic congestion has gotten worse over time, rivaling that of Los Angeles, and the time to get to work rose by 25% in the last 15 years.
Transportation is the largest source of greenhouse gas in the Bay Area, especially as more than 100,000 estimated super-commuters drive more than three hours to and from work because they’ve been squeezed out Silicon Valley’s pricey housing market.
This proposal has already started with Santa Clara County’s 22,000 employees. Chavez was joined Monday by a handful of employers who also signed the pledge, including Carl Guardino, chief executive officer of Silicon Valley Leadership Group; Eric Thornburg, president & chief executive officer of the San Jose Water Company; and Marci McCue, vice president of content and communication for Flipboard.
Thornburg said that if he can convince 200 employees to work from home five days a month, that’s a reduction of about 30,000 commuter miles
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