To Go Green (In More Ways than One) Go Virtual...and Bus and Rail

Greg Galitzine : Green Blog
Greg Galitzine
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To Go Green (In More Ways than One) Go Virtual...and Bus and Rail

Want more proof that going green by virtualizing offices i.e. teleworking and locating those functions that need people to interact with each other and with equipment inside energy-efficient buildings at high-transit-accessible locations is the smart way to go? Why it will save green in more ways than one.

A new report by the Urban Land Institute (ULI) and PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PwC) Emerging Trends in Real Estate 2010 covered on TMCnet  illustrates why staying or locating in traditional suburban sprawl office buildings is a bad financial idea. It paints a bleak outlook for investors, owners, and landlords for office space.

"[D]on't expect any spikes in this recovery given the dearth of employment generators and rising vacancies. New demand could stall well into 2011 or even 2012. Employers continue to seek outsourcing and productivity gains, especially in the financial industry.

"Big companies pursue various options to reduce costs, use space more efficiently, and increase "people-per-seat metrics. They count on young employees to adapt to paperless environments as well as more work-at-home and open space hoteling strategies." These secular trends could "mitigate any office rebound."

Suburban office markets are in a much worse position than those in downtowns and accessible on transit. The central cities have and will outperform suburban sprawl, which it has done since 2007, as an investment prospects, with vacancy rates tracking approximately five percent less downtown than on the fringes.

 "Avoid suburban markets," recommends the report. "Urban and infill areas should benefit from demographics changes and economic shifts working against many suburbs. The "move back in" by echo boomers and empty nester baby boomers continues, and office tenants migrate toward suburban nodes with more urban amenities. Rising car-related costs (gas, insurance, user fees, loans) and increased congestion don't help the suburban office story, either. In particular, obsolescence threatens older office parks."

Yes, there are deals to be had, and landlords are willing to bend over backwards. But Diety forbid you have to pull up stakes--a key consideration because how quickly things change--the chances of finding someone to take over your lease or if you decide to own a building, you'll have your finances dragged into the mud by this white elephant.

Here's another green-in-many-ways-tip: if you have to have your staff travel, for short trips put them on buses and trains instead having them fly (or drive) to ensure that they can work productively enroute.

A new report from DePaul University also reported on TMCnet found that the ability and ease of bus and train customers to use portable electronic devices as compared to those who fly is prompting their greater use. So much so that it is offsetting the longer travel times resulting it says growing market share for bus and rail.

The study: Is Portable Technology Changing How Americans Travel? A Survey of the Use of Electronic Devises on Intercity Buses, Train, and Planes reported in the transit trade magazine Metro, says curbside bus and high-speed Boston-New York-Washington, D.C. Amtrak Acela Express trains travelers are the heaviest users of portable technology. At randomly selected points during trips, it said that 39.6 percent of passengers on curbside buses are using some form of portable device. This is two percentage points more than on conventional Amtrak trains and more than twice that on commercial flights and traditional Greyhound buses.

In contrast to rail and bus users, on the average commercial flight, only 17.6 percent of passengers are using technology at any given point. The report points to the requirements that devices must be deactivated after leaving the gate and remain off for an extended period. Also the aircraft design makes power outlets and centralized computer-equipped work stations impractical to install.  While airlines make special allowances for passengers to travel with laptop and notebook computers but when flights are full, keeping such equipment at seats can be awkward. Even the seemingly simple act of retrieving a laptop from an overhead compartment can be difficult, as many are filled to capacity.

"Due to gradual reductions in seat pitch, escalating load factors, and the "hassle factor" of airport security in the post-9/11 environment (requiring travelers to complete a series of tasks before boarding the plane and taking their seat), many travelers opt to bring only the smallest devices, such as cell phones and iPods, with them," says the report.

The trends identified by the DePaul report will accelerate. It came out just before the attempting bombing of Flight 253 and the resulting added security measures that has added to the total air travel time, and the resulting hassle. Both Amtrak and Greyhound are accelerating their Wi-Fi deployments notes the report. Wi-Fi provisioning came up at a meeting last month in Vancouver, B.C. Canada on improving cross-border intercity rail. Washington, Oregon, the province of British Columbia and Amtrak have been working together to drive more customers into the spiffy Amtrak Cascades Talgo trains that operate between Eugene, Oregon and the Canadian city, which is home of the 2010 Winter Olympics, by way of Portland and Seattle. 

If one does need to fly, and one's destination is the Seattle area, Sound Transit has just opened its LINK LRT to SeaTac airport. It offers a 36-minute ride to the downtown. Flying to Seattle, then riding LINK and taking Amtrak can be a less expensive as well as a scenic, if longer option to reaching Vancouver, B.C. 



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