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As a thought experiment, what if companies are made to pay for commute time? How would that change the labour market? Would they hire local? Provide better transportation? Work with cities to reduce congestion? Encourage more remote work? Decide it's too expensive to hire workers and cut hours? Work towards more inclusive housing?





That is way unfair to the company, when you will have certain people who are 'happy' to travel 1.5 hours each way. This seems insane to me, but there are plenty of people who do this and see no issue at all.

How would a company hire local anyway, by rejecting candidates who live to far away? What if they promise to move, but don't end up doing it?

> Work with cities to reduce congestion?

The only real working way to do that is to ask them to introduce a congestion charge, which I am all for.


In France this problem is solved by the company compensating for 50% of the commute. Turns out not many people are "happy" about a 3-hour daily commute.

I believe that's only if you use public transport through the Pass Navigo. I'm not sure individual tickets are reimbursed, and I'm pretty sure gas isn't either.

But getting 50% off of your Navigo, which is a monthly pass allowing you unlimited use of Paris and greater Paris public transports. Which is about 75 euros. So when your are subsidised by your company with respect to public transport, you have unlimited access to all public transport in and around Paris for 38 euros. Which is nuts because the Parisian public transport network is crazy (metros, trams, buses, transiliens, RERs).


you can get individual tickets reimbursed too, my mom is working part-time around Paris and she keeps her used tickets as a proof of payement.

When I was working as a consultant at Alten, in theory my gas could have been reimbursed (based on distance travelled and car horsepower), but I never tried since I used public transport during all my time there.


Only if you come with public transport. They refund half your monthly pass then.

There's also a push to apply it to bicycles, but it's not widely implemented so far.

But it doesn't apply to car commuting.


>That is way unfair to the company

oh no, the poor poor companies ;((((((


There are about 100 reforms to the worker-owner relationship, but I don't know that "paying workers for travel" is one of them. In order for it to be somewhat reasonable and not completely abused one way or the other, you would have to look at worker wages and compare it to living options in the area of the workplace, and about five other things I could brainstorm but don't feel like enumerating at the moment.

I hear things are pretty bad in the bay area and other metropolises that have high rent and low wage. Something should be done but I'm not sure this is it.


> The only real working way to do that is to ask them to introduce a congestion charge, which I am all for.

Works really well where it was pioneered (in Singapore) and also seems to do an OK job in London.

I suspect the Brits ain't as ruthless in applying orthodox economics in general, so they don't solve their problems nearly as well including their congestion problems.


There have been multiple other UK cities with proposals for congestion charges which have been rejected. Transport doesn't really work the same way outside of the M25.

The congestion charge applies only to a tiny area inside the M25.

The congestion charges in Singapore and London weren't popular when they were introduced either. So not sure what rejection elsewhere tells us?


This is insane.

I commute a bit over an hour. Because I cannot afford to live close to my job and rent a place for me and child.

It would cost me triple my current rent.


Most people aren't 'happy' to commute 1.5 hours each way, but will 'put up with it be afford food'

I haven't noticed that most automobile commuters look emaciated. If they're commuting that far it's because they want to live in a bigger house in a more affordable neighborhood, or because they NEED to live in a state that has no winter, and not bc it's the only way to stay alive.

What happens if someone moves while at the job ? What happens if there is a traffic jam? What happens if the worker typically doesn't drive home directly after work (or doesn't come to work from home)? Etc....

The executive team can trim a few million off their annual bonuses so the very low number of workers that commute far distances can be compensated for that time sitting in the car.

Alas they can but they won’t and they’ll fight you in court so they don’t have to.


So we will be limiting this new regulation to businesses that actually can actually make a few million in profit instead of just pasting it across the whole commercial space, right?

I don’t see why exceptions couldn’t be made for smaller businesses that obviously couldn’t afford to compensate for commute.

But yes enormous, corporate conglomerates should pay.


Average commute looks roughly like ~1 hour/day [0]. For a company like Apple there are 137k employees [1] and ~250 work days/year so that's ~34M hours. Assuming hourly rate of $20/hour (since well paid employees like SWE are salaried and won't get extra pay) we get ~$680M/year extra payroll... Eh, I guess they could afford it, although my questions still stand.

[0] - https://www.visualcapitalist.com/average-commute-u-s-states-... [1] - https://www.statista.com/statistics/273439/number-of-employe...


Sign into work laptop. Then start driving to work.

If there's a traffic jam, that's the employers problem.

For 'going somewhere else after work', it wouldn't be officially allowed - you are still working till you arrive home. Obviously some workplaces could perhaps allow flexibility as a benefit.


Wow, your suggestions are insane.

It would mostly lead to distortions between workers with different commutes. The overall average compensation would change much, but you'd change the distribution between workers.

Germany has a system a bit like what you are describing, only that it's the government giving you tax rebates for long commutes. It's not a good idea.

Ponder the opposite: why not subsidize short commutes instead and give people assistance to pay the higher rent closer to the place of work? That would be much greener, too.

Just to be clear, that would be silly as well. Let workers and employers negotiate what they want to compensate and how much.


Honestly, subsidizing short commmutes is an idea I can get behind, even though I feel all of the gains would be captured by landlords.

You can do this by introducing a carbon tax (that you levy on eg petrol as well) and a road congestion charge.

Distribute the proceeds equally amongst all citizens. And in effect, anyone who commutes less than the average person gets a net positive payment. (Or technically: anyone who uses less carbon or causes less congestion than the average person.. Someone who commutes 100km by bicycle would still get a net payment. That's fine.)

But yes, these you are right, there's a danger that landholders (landlords and owner occupiers) capture the gains, even in my proposed scheme.

You deal with that via a land value tax.

From the point of view of economics, those ideas are orthodoxy. Good luck getting them past any political process anywhere in the world, though.


Sounds like a good way to mass enabling discrimination based on where you live...

I had a similar thought, about providing free wi-fi and letting people like lawyers and programmers bill the hours that they work while riding on public transit. This would create more demand. I got this idea from dealing with my patent lawyer. It seemed like 90% of the time when I got him on the phone, he was sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic. He could have been billing that time for all I know.

My other weird idea is to have first and second class transit, where the only difference is the price. I got the idea from the trains in Europe. The first class transit would attract people who want to feel like they are getting some exclusive service, and would help fund and support the system overall.


Not every transport mode has two classes. Only intercity trains do, but buses and subways don't.

Indeed, but imagine if they did. Would the American professional class embrace buses if there were two classes? The aversion to buses is partly social.

>As a thought experiment, what if companies are made to pay for commute time?

As someone who grew up on an island I think this is a very, very, bad idea. When distance has a high cost the price of everything skyrockets.


Most Dutch companies pay your way for the commute. They won't pay you for the time it takes to commute, but they'll pay your train fare, or give you a lease car and pay your gas money.

Then you have Belgium, where many workers get a company car with a fuel card. It means they waste only time on their commute, and the other costs are supported by the employer. You get urban sprawl, health issues because these drivers spend time stressed and stationary. It's insane and creates mobility issues. And it's hard to revert, it might mean political suicide for the ones in charge who finally fix the broken system, because now many workers have created a dependency on this free car and fuel system.

It used to be quite common in the UK then the government changed the tax system to discourage it. There were a few grumbles but it didn't seem to cause the government that many problems.

What would happen is they would require workers to live in the apartment complex across the street (aka "company housing").

Where I live, it's already the case. Many of my coworkers choose to live further away from the office because the taxes and rent are lower there. It takes me 8 minutes to bike to work but I pay more in taxes and rent. They choose to live an hour away each way to save on these (but pay to own a car, gas, and erode their health sitting in a car)

This is already the case in the UK for employees who frequently work away from their main office - the employer is expected to pay both time and expenses for travel.

It hasn't dramatically reduced commute time for those people IMO.


That’s not really a commute then though is it?

This is in the EU:

"The European Union Court of Justice has ruled that time spent traveling to and from your job counts as work, and that your employer has to pay you for it. But don’t get too excited–this only counts if you have no fixed office or place of work. The new law is designed to protect workers who travel to remote sites, straight from their home. If you commute to the same office cubicle every day, nothing changes."

https://www.fastcompany.com/3063893/the-eu-says-that-some-co...


That was exactly my point though - isn't a commute by definition when you go to the same place every day?

The privatization of all kinds of costs onto labor by Capital is actually a well-analyzed subject:

https://www.versobooks.com/blogs/3555-mapping-social-reprodu...


Labour's share of GDP has been reasonably stable over the centuries.

Yes, that’s the problem.

I don't understand.

The labour share has been roughly at 60% +/- 10% for ages.

Even getting 100% will be at most a doubling of labour's income. That's nifty, comparable to moving from Mississippi to Connecticut. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_U.S._states_by_GDP_per...)

But it's one-off. The difference between countries are bigger. And so are the difference over time.

And of course, jumping to 100% while keeping total GDP per capita constant is not really possible.


They kind of sort of do via tax. The tax helps pay for the infrastructure that allow their employees to get to work, along with contributing to a healthy and educated workforce.

If they paid directly I think it would result in a two (or more) tiered transport network, great for people in some jobs/companies but terrible for most.


The transport systems around the world are already many tiered. Unless everyone walks on their own two feet, that's pretty much a given.



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