Water commuting can save time and improve health

It’s time to think outside the car, and even the rail, when it comes to planning reasonable commutes for employees. Consider water commuting.

It’s time to think outside the car, and even the rail, when it comes to planning reasonable commutes for employees. Consider water commuting. It’s a smart decision for companies and cities to consider; after all, one thing climate science tells us for sure, is that sea levels are rising and will likely continue to do so for centuries to come.  

According to a study of data collected by the US Census Bureau, the average one-way commute in the U.S. has only risen by about one minute in the last two years. In 2017, the average one-way commute in the U.S. was 26.9 minutes. But

commute times are far worse in major metros such as New York (37 min.), Washington, DC (34.9 min.), San Francisco (34.4 min.), Atlanta (32.3 min) and Chicago (31.8 min.).

And, despite an increased emphasis on public transit in many of these cities, commute times aren’t likely to get shorter, especially with roads increasingly jammed with ridesharing vehicles and delivery trucks.

Access to water creates opportunities

One thing almost all of the country’s major metros have in common is significant access to water. And some private developers, municipalities and major corporations are seizing the opportunity that water access provides. Local Capital Group and DRA Advisors, recent buyers of more than 900,000 square feet of life science and office space in Alameda, the largest island in San Francisco Bay, are working with private ferry services.

Public ferry services have expanded around the Bay Area too.  There are nine ferry terminals in the Bay Area, primarily serving San Francisco, the East Bay and North Bay. A second high-speed ferry began service to the North Bay in August and a third ferry is due to start in 2020.

If there is a competitive advantage for cities with access to water, like San Francisco, it’s that taking to the water can be one way to alleviate street-based congestion and reduce transit times for some commuters. Traversing the Bay on a foggy morning in a catamaran is also not a bad way to start the day.

Commuting for health and fitness

There are other benefits too. Average weekday bike trips in San Francisco have declined since 2015. This could be due to increased local traffic or the emergence of powered rental scooters like Bird, Lime and others, but it follows a national pattern of reduced bike commuting that started when global oil prices began to decline a few years ago. Still, a hard core of 95,000 bike trips were made in 2017 by environmentally and health conscious San Francisco commuters.

Now, one Bay Area-based start up is taking personal mobility to the water and providing electric-assisted pedal bikes which commuters can use to cross the Oakland estuary between Jack London Square and Alameda. In the future, these bikes could be used to traverse the bay, giving commuters a potentially intense fitness boost. There’s no reason why the Bay Area’s extensive network of bike and exercise trails, shouldn’t include the Bay.

While a Waterworld scenario is hopefully only a (bad) Hollywood nightmare, getting more comfortable with using the water to circumvent on-land commutes is a smart thing for us all to contemplate. 

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