Monday, January 11, 2021

Notations On Our World (Weekly Edition): Out & About in Our World (Courtesy Bloomberg CityLab)



When the pandemic first sent office workers home, I embraced the extra hour and a half I gained with the absence of commuting. I made myself a decent breakfast, and I took advantage of an evening run while the sun was still shining. But as weeks of remote working turned into months, I'd wake up later, leaving myself sometimes just 15 minutes to get ready, and by evening, the line between work and leisure was all but a blur.

I’m fortunate to have had the option to work from home. But some days, I miss that clear separation provided by my 45-minute commutes.

The outlook for mass commuting, even after the distribution of a vaccine, is still up in the air. Transit systems currently face severe cuts, and may not easily return to their pre-pandemic days, even with $14 billion in aid from the most recent stimulus package. Prospects for transit funding may improve with a Democratic majority in the Senate. But logistics aside, companies and employees that have now adapted to remote work may not be able to so easily reverse that cultural force — and they may not want to

My commute isn't as long as that of my colleague David Dudley, who recently reflected on his experience as a “mega commuter” traveling from Baltimore to Washington, D.C. via train, then metrorail, then bike  — a journey that consumed some two hours each way. Still, a lot can happen in the 45 minutes I spent traveling by bus and foot to and from downtown D.C. I’d study the various shapes, sizes and architecture of the houses the bus passed by as it barreled down 16th Street toward the grandest residence in the city: the White House. Some days, you meet interesting or kind fellow passengers. I am still thankful for a kind elderly woman who woke me up at my bus stop after I dozed off because she "had a feeling" that was where I was supposed to get off. And if nothing else, that bus ride was a great opportunity to catch up on sleep.

There’s no indication that commuting will become a relic of the pre-pandemic world. But its return may look very different, as Dudley writes:

Polls suggest that many workers are anticipating a hybrid model, with more flexible hours and days, once the vaccine restores the normalcy we claim to want. We’ll get exactly as much in-person face time, and thus commuting time, as we want, somehow. Commuting writ large, in its standard 30-minutes-or-less size, will survive the pandemic, as it has past disruptions, because it provides a critical work-life separation that endures even as travel modes change. But for practitioners of its supersized variant, I suspect the spell has been broken. It may prove difficult to convince our ranks that there’s anything that needs to happen at a desk in another city so important that it could not be accomplished at a desk closer to hand.

-Linda Poon

What we're writing

Nabilla Nur Anisah/Bloomberg CityLab

What we're taking in

  • How cartoonists are capturing the Capitol riot — and the ways Trump provoked it (Washington Post)
  • "Senate being locked down": Inside a harrowing day at the U.S. Capitol (New York Times)
  • NBA players weren't surprised by DC. We live with white supremacy every day (Guardian)
  • These friends invested their life savings to feed their community (Huffington Post)
  • The signature film of 76 cities around the world (Yardbarker)
  • Neither rain, nor snow nor a pandemic discourages NYC’s Naked Cowboy (Wall Street Journal)
  • SoulCycle’s exclusivity was its secret weapon — and its downfall (Vox)
  • The treasured diners and hidden haunts that Covid-19 closed for good (New York Times)

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