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Telecommuting and urban sprawl: mitigator or inciter?


There is some evidence to the effect that as cities become increasingly congested new housing starts occur at greater distances from urban centers while jobs tend to remain center-concentrated or develop in other suburbs. In either case, mean commute distances tend to increase. Telecommuting is seen as a means of increasing the jobs-housing balance in urban and suburban areas by enhancing the ability to move work to, or closer to, the workers' residences rather than requiring workers to commute to work daily. This has the immediate side effect of decreasing automobile congestion and associated energy consumption and air pollution. There is a possible longer term adverse impact of telecommuting resulting from its ability to decrease constraints on household location, thereby enhancing the rate of spread of suburbia. This paper reviews evidence concerning the possible effects of telecommuting on urban sprawl, as derived from a two-year test of telecommuting in California, and describes two scenarios of urban form development made more feasible by telecommuting.

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Nilles, J.M. Telecommuting and urban sprawl: mitigator or inciter?. Transportation 18, 411–432 (1991).

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Key words

  • telecommuting
  • urban sprawl