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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The Travel and Emissions Impacts of Telecommuting for the State of California Telecommuting Pilot Project


The impacts of home-based telecommuting on travel behavior and personal vehicle emissions for participants in the State of California Telecommuting Pilot Project are analyzed using the most advanced emissions modeling tools currently available. A comparison of participants' telecommuting day travel behavior with their before-telecommuting behavior shows a 27% reduction in the number of personal vehicle trips, a 77% decrease in vehicle-miles traveled (VMT), and 39% (and 4%) decreases in the number of cold (and hot) engine starts. These decreases in travel translate into emissions reductions of: 48% for total organic gases (TOG), 64% for carbon monoxide (CO), 69% for nitrogen oxide (NOx), and 78% for particulate matter (PM). Although the authors developed the methodology to investigate the emissions impacts of telecommuting, the analysis technique can be applied to any demand management or other transportation strategy where all of the necessary model inputs are available. An analysis of the number of personal vehicle trips and VMT partitioned into commute-related and non-commute-related purposes revealed that non-commute personal vehicle trips increased by 0.5 trips per person-day on average, whereas the non-commute VMT decreased by 5.3 miles. This important finding supports (for one indicator, the number of trips) the hypothesis that non-commute travel generation is a potential negative impact of telecommuting. This finding demonstrates the need to monitor these changes as telecommuting moves into the mainstream. In this study, however, the small increase in non-commute trips has a negligible impact compared to the overall travel and emissions savings.

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