To alleviate isle traffic, send some workers home
For quite some time now, I've been listening to a number of discussions about the traffic problems in Hawaii. Debates and proposed solutions have focused on fixed rail; elevated, reversible HOV/express bus lanes; widening highways; a better bus system; more bicycle lanes; flexible work hours and more.
All of these suggestions would undoubtedly be helpful to some extent, and all of them have supporters and critics due to costs, maintenance, personal convenience and more.
However, one suggestion that seems to get little or no consideration is the proposal that we change the way we work and play.
I therefore suggest that all employers -- federal, state, city and county, and private -- should invite their employees to submit a one- or two-day "work at home" proposal.
Although the nature of some jobs would make this impractical, many other jobs entail countless hours sitting at a computer, talking on the phone and handling e-mail. Why not encourage employees to do much of this at home? Who could possibly be opposed to this idea?
Employers, perhaps? Worried that the "work at home" people would sneak off to the beach or the grocery store during work hours?
I say, "Good" -- then the grocery stores and beaches won't be so crowded when those who cannot work at home want to go there.
As the long as the work gets done, as long as the employee is completing his or her tasks, what difference does it make if the employee completes them from 9 to 5 or in the middle of the night?
One of the problems of our society is that we are bound to past habits. People have been mostly working 9 to 5 since the Industrial Revolution. But surely 100-200 years later, with new technologies, we can find more efficient and creative ways to get our jobs done.
Although some enterprises have already moved in this direction (like the University of Hawaii's Distance Ed program), we have nowhere near fulfilled the possibilities of this suggestion. I participate in the UH Distance-Ed program, and am convinced that I am at least as dedicated as my 9 to 5 campus colleagues, and far more productive than I would be stuck in my office, which has excessive disruptions.
If employers along with community and political leaders actively promote this idea, I believe that the results would be:
» easing traffic congestion 20-40 percent during rush hour;
» less-congested freeways on the weekends because people could arrange their recreation during their flex time;
» more profitable businesses because work-at-home people can do their shopping and business transactions in their flex time instead of competing with everyone else during everyone else's free time;
» happier employees because of the flex time that keeps them out of the congestion and in a more pleasant environment (home);
» more efficient uses of our spaces (home offices instead of empty houses from 9 to 5)
» saving taxpayers billions of dollars because some of the other high-cost traffic solutions wouldn't be necessary.
» reducing climate warming and dependence on fossil fuels as more people spend more time at home and less time commuting.
If this idea doesn't work, it costs nothing to try it. We can always return to our 100-year-old pattern of frustration.
Patricia Neils is an associate professor of history at Leeward Community College. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org