Oct 12, 2011

How to reduce traffic in large cities in developing countries?

I left home very early today, I wanted to skip the Guatemala City traffic. Yesterday, because it was raining, it took me an hour and a half to get to work, what usually takes 25 minutes. I thought it was going to rain today as well so I got up around 4:40 am. It took me 20 minutes to get to school. Unfortunately, half way to school, on the main highway that comes from El Salvador, a school bus and a pickup truck had crash, I don't know if there were children in the bus. The pick-up was laying over the structure that separates the two ways of the highway. This is not unusual, every time it rains most likely there are going to be car accidents in the City, which I assume is also true for other large cities in the word.  
Then the idea of the "E-day" came to mind. We could coordinate in an "e-day" a week. Meaning that one day a week most of the work that can be done from home using technology is done from home.

One can apply a cost benefit approach, at least conceptually to this proposal. The more people go to work outside their homes the higher the transportation costs (oil consumption, pollution, time wasted, car accidents and human lives, you name it). This cost is specially high during rainy days. Think about the traffic in a typical rainy day in Mexico City, Guatemala City, or Legos, Nigeria, it is crazy!

The e-days is specially suitable to the service industries: education, sales and marketing, law offices, the media, government offices, etc. It fits more to some industries than others. 

Large cities can use technology to their advantage. In this regards, as economists say, there are indeed several million dollars laying on the street, ready to be picked up. [meaning that we can gain a lot from using more technology].

I would not favor a formal, government rule, to impose this, rather a social coordination around this equilibrium [a cultural change, a change in the mind set]. Different industries, or companies, can use the e-day as it better benefits their operations. 

A sketch of the Economic analysis
There are very high costs when all of us go out to our offices. The more people go outside to work the higher the transportation costs. But when people stay at home there are some face to face interactions that do not happen when we work at home, this is potentially a cost of the "e-day." Therefore there has to be a point where the marginal costs of working at home are equal to the marginal benefit. But that point is not where all of us go to work outside our homes. And, there are some possible benefit of using the technology that we are not really aware of. This might lead us to other issues, such as monitoring costs, etc. But mechanisms can be designed by every company to deal with them. 

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