There’s Cake in the Breakroom! A New Marketplace Podcast

If you work in an office, do you ever find yourself thinking that you could get more work done at home?

That's the question we address in our latest podcast, "There's Cake in the Breakroom!"

You can download/subscribe at iTunes, get the RSS feed, listen via the media player above, or read the transcript below.

There are at least two primary perspectives on this topic:

  1. Employees think about how much better their lives would be if they didn't have to deal with commuting, the office culture, etc.
  2. Employers think about how productivity would plunge if employees were allowed to work at home -- or, as it's sometimes known, "shirk at home."

But there's at least one more perspective to consider. A firm might look at the office rent it pays and think it might be worth the trade-off to let employees work at home instead.

Long Commutes: Bad for the Heart

A new study finds that, in addition to being a real downer, long commutes are related to bad health. Conducted by Christine Hoehner, Carolyn E. Barlow, Peg Allen, and Mario Schootman, the study found that long commutes are correlated with higher blood pressure and bigger waistlines.  "This is the first study to show that people who commute long distances to work were less fit, weighed more, were less physically active and had higher blood pressure," said Hoehner. "All those are strong predictors of heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers."

How High Gas Prices Triggered the Housing Crisis

Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum made headlines last week when he suggested that high gas prices made mortgages unaffordable, causing the recent housing bubble to burst and sending the economy into recession. It may sound far-fetched, but it is precisely the theory that I and a pair of coauthors presented in a working paper released five days before Santorum’s remarks.

We are actually a bit more nuanced, arguing that unexpectedly high gas prices triggered the collapse of the housing market -- igniting a fire fueled by easy credit, lax lending practices, and speculation. It is a provocative claim and one with broad implications, but it is also a claim supported by economic theory and empirical evidence.

The federal government’s Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission asserted in its 2010 report that “it was the collapse of the housing bubble . . .that was the spark that ignited a string of events that led to a full-blown crisis in the fall of 2008.” And a broad, if not unanimous, consensus among economists suggests that the ongoing economic malaise was induced by a financial crisis caused by the housing crisis. Relatively less well-understood is what caused the housing crisis in the first place.

How Do You Value Your Time?

Minneapolis allows single-occupancy cars to use its HOV expressway lanes for a price, which is typically between $1.50 and $2.50 on I-35W during morning rush-hour between the airport and downtown. The price seems to be higher when traffic in the other lanes is heavier -- the city is sensibly applying peak-load pricing.

Is Getting There Half the Fun?

A teleportation machine might be essential if you want to investigate the mysterious disappearance of the dilithium mining colony on Betazak Nine or conclude a trade agreement for Romulan ale. But back here on earth, do we really need or desire teleporters for our considerably more mundane existences? If we could get places instantaneously, and rid ourselves of travel entirely, would we?

Should We Hope Congestion Gets Worse?

One of the less cheery parts of studying transportation is that the activity you have devoted your life to is widely considered an unmitigated downer. Even aside from the external environmental costs each trip places on society, travel is held to be no fun for the traveler. We don't hop behind the wheel for the love of being honked at, cut off and stuck behind a creeping bus or semi; we endure travel only because we've got someplace to go. Right?

Fare's Fair?

When does transit fare policy treat people unequally? When it treats them exactly the same.

Why?

At the risk of overgeneralization, there are two major constituencies for mass transit. First are wealthier workers who commute to jobs in city centers where parking is expensive. The other group consists of the very poor. Unlike the “choice riders,” who could drive if necessary, low-income “captive” riders often have no other option.

Man, There’s an Opera Out There on the Turnpike

Remember the recent blog post about a proposal by New Jersey government officials to build some new high-ticket private lanes on the Turnpike? A reader named Leonard Hargiss let us know that he’d written a letter to N.J. governor Jon Corzine and the state’s transportation commissioner back in January with a very similar idea — […]

Will Bicycling to Work Get You Killed?

Bicycle commuting is on the rise, as evidenced by the following articles in Treehugger.com, the Boston Herald, and USA Today. But if the idea of hitting the road on two wheels — with little to protect you from cars and trucks but good manners — strikes you as pretty risky, you aren’t so far from […]