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UPDATED: FlexFit

Thanks to all for your feedback and input. I've updated my project to focus on the Education and Coworking aspects, with technology complementing both.

Living in the Washington, D.C. area, I know firsthand the impact of traffic congestion on one's personal and professional life. This area is well known for 30, 40, 50, 60 and even 90 minute commutes. In fact, I know a few people who live as far away as Pennsylvania and commute into DC each and every day. That's more than 2.5 hours each way WITHOUT traffic. Seriously. So what's the lure? Why subject ourselves to such painful commutes?

For many, careers started when the individuals were younger, single, and had little obligations beyond rent and a car payment. As their careers progressed, so too did their lives; the singles evolved into families with mortgages and multiple car payments. With children now a major part of the equation, many left the city to find better schools and a suburban neighborhood in which to raise their children. With costs soaring for housing, food and education, families have found it necessary to move further and further away from cities, leading to longer and longer commutes for the breadwinners.

The issue of traffic congestion is an interesting one, as it isn't as simple as building new roads or utilizing technology to help direct traffic. No, it's a complex problem that requires multiple changes to how we work, where we work, and when we commute. To reduce traffic congestion, I propose the following two programs:

  1. Education: In the      US, drivers have to pass a written driving test around the age of 15. They      then need to learn to drive and pass an actual driving test between the      ages of 16 and 18 (it varies from state to state). Beyond that, vision      screenings are required every 10 years or so, but rarely does a driver      have to recertify that they understand the rules of the road. I see this      as problematic because drivers become complacent, lazy, and forgetful when      it comes to the basics. They also are not always aware of new      laws/legislation and how it may affect them, such as recent laws in Maryland      passed to deter texting while driving.  Carelessness and distracted driving leads      to increased traffic congestion when drivers don't understand basics, such      as how or when to merge, the safe distance between cars, the importance of      driving without distractions (no cell phones, applying makeup, changing      clothes or eating a salad . . .and yes, I've seen all of these). To      address this issue, I propose the following:
  • Drivers should       be required to take an online course annually that reviews basic driving techniques       and rules of the road, as well as any new laws/regulations introduced. To       incentivize taking/passing this test, I propose awarding badges (or something       similar) to users to signify their level of understanding. These would be       tied to their driver’s license and accessible to police during traffic       stops or accidents and auto insurance companies, who might consider       extending incentives to individuals who do well on their annual screening       and who drive accident free. At least one insurance company in the US       currently awards drivers who are accident free by lowering their       deductible annually.  
  • I propose       that road signs and electronic bill boards be used to provide reminders       of basic road rules, such as they do when discussing motorcycle safety or       a traffic issue ahead.
  • As       suggested by classmate, Harold Glascock, I propose using celebrities       (perhaps racing celebrities) in mass media campaigns to reinforce safe       driving. This has been proven an effective technique in reducing drunk       driving. (SOURCE: http://www.thecommunityguide.org/mvoi/massmedia_ajpm.pdf)
         
         
  • Coworking: The      Coworking trend continues to grow globally, with many companies and      organizations embracing flexible work schedules to better suit their employee’s      personal lives, to help ease traffic congestion, and to lower a company’s      overhead (read: save money). There’s even a conference dedicated to      coworking:  http://austingcuc.com/2013/. With      an eye towards reducing congestion, I propose that companies and      organizations develop contracts with coworking facilities to allow      employees to work closer to home on a part-time or full-time basis.
    • To manage       this, companies would develop policies to allow employees to choose a set       schedule for coworking or allow them the flexibility to cowork on days       when traffic congestion is heightened. As suggested by S. Abrahamson, technology       could be used to generate electronic alerts (similar to Google alerts)       for employees and their managers when specific traffic inducing events       are planned, inclement weather predicted, or when an accident occurs.
    • Participating       in the Coworking Visa project (http://wiki.coworking.com/w/page/16583744/CoworkingVisa)       would allow corporations/organizations to contract with multiple       coworking business at once so that if an employee is already en route and       finds themselves stuck in traffic, they could reroute to a coworking       agency nearby to work or conduct a meeting.
    • Utilizing       technology to enhance the coworking experience could include web conferencing       (reference S. Abrahamson’s suggestion/example in comments       re: San Paolo) to help personalize the experience for employees, employers,       and clients.
    • Relationships       between coworking businesses and corporations/government organizations       could be incentivized by having coworking companies provide a group rate       to corporations. Additionally, perhaps tax incentives could be introduced       to encourage companies working with certified local small businesses,       which would help support the local economy.

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