Every weekday in South African cities tens of thousands of workers travel from thousands of widely dispersed places of residence to a small number of centralized business areas and then home again. The result is traffic congestion that has a detrimental effect on both society and the individual. The time for tinkering at the edges of the commute to manage traffic congestion has passed. Of more importance is whether the twice-daily mass commute is necessary? Rather than people going to work, should technology not be used to take the work to the people? This paper briefly considers the evolution of work, human needs and the complex economic and social role of work, as well as the expectations and needs of a new breed of young worker. Reactive short-term measures to reduce peak congestion such as flexitime, staggered shifts and working from home (telecommuting) may have some impact on peak traffic but a more visionary and broader proactive response to changes in the world of work will deliver greater benefits. A model for the figurative redevelopment of neighbourhoods with the equipping of high-tech buildings with pod offices is suggested. These would provide office space for the local staff of many different and geographically dispersed companies, close to their homes (walking distance or a commute of minutes). This would eliminate the commute, but retain the social and psychological role of work as well as manage productivity.
Papers presented at the 36th Southern African Transport Conference, CSIR International Convention Centre, Pretoria, South Africa on 10-13 July 2017.