The 100-mile office

Canadian gas prices have risen (though they haven’t kept pace with the increase in crude oil), and by enough, apparently, to drive some change in behaviour. Unless, of course, someone steps in to subsidize the high cost of commuting. A story in today’s Careers section in the Globe outlines how some employers are responding to the pressure on their workers:

“Thanks to my company, the price of gas doesn’t bother me at all,” Ms. Byer says. “I can just imagine commuters in their cars thinking: ‘I wish our company had a van pool, too.’ “

Now, Enbridge employee Ms. Byer shares a van from cottage country to her office in Toronto for her 160-kilometre commute. Yes, 160 kilometres. It’s certainly better that several long distance commuters are in one vehicle, but it doesn’t negate the environmental damage caused by employing people who don’t live in the same municipality.

Another company’s assistance is even more destructive:

Douglas Adams became a hero last month when he decided to pay for the gas his employees use to commute. “It’s been an outcry of bravos, thank-yous and hugs. One employee who drives 60 miles a day each way even broke down and cried,” the chief executive officer of engineering parts distributor EFC International in St. Louis, Mo., says of the response to his offer last month.

He’ll be sharing his gift of unremitting emissions with Southern Ontario next month later this year, when he opens an office in Hamilton.

The article also features companies that are doing more environmentally-friendly things, such as encouraging working from home, providing bicycle storage and showers, etc. But here’s an idea that could make all of these innovations unnecessary: why don’t companies restrict hiring to people who live in the same Census Metropolitan Area? Lower commuting costs for employees, no subsidies required from employers, less smog — win, win, win.