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Transportation Woes? $4 Gas Is Not A Simple Repeat Now That We’re More Connected

March 1, 2012
at 9:22 am PST

How high does the price of gas have to go for you to start working from home, carpool, or take public transportation?

Gas prices in the San Francisco Bay Area have jumped above $4 per gallon. The AAA Daily Fuel Gauge Report shows national average prices around the $3.70 level. I take public transportation from time to time. When gas prices first hit the $4 mark back in mid 2008, I saw a dramatic jump in public transportation ridership. I remember passengers packed like sardines on buses and light rail trains during the commute hours, scenes that you would normally see on the streets of Beijing or Tokyo. 

Is history simply repeating itself with $4 gas in 2008 and $4 gas today?

Not exactly. It’s been less than 4 years, but we are much more connected now than in 2008. Ubiquitous wired and wireless network access makes us more productive and less dependent on physical transportation for work. Here are some stats that I collected to show the difference.

Trend Past   Recent
Android smart phones sold Q2 2008: Didn’t find stats  Q2 2011: 46.8 million units
Apple iPhones sold Q2 2008: 1.7 million units  Q2 2011: 18.6 million units
Power Over Ethernet (PoE) switch ports shipped. PoE connects devices like wireless access points easily to the network. 2007: 47 million PoE ports  2010: 70 million PoE ports
Wi-Fi on Bay Area light rail trains 2008: No  Today: Yes
Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) 2008: What’s that?  Today: Everywhere

Anytime, anywhere access also helps people work smarter and more efficiently. Take the Merced County Office of Education (MCOE) in California, for example. Its limited IT department supports 20 school districts, serving more than 60,000 students. MCOE IT staff is extending network connectivity for schools. Instead of having to send its network technicians out on the road, MCOE is using Cisco Smart Install to remotely provision dozens of new switches as part of a full-scale wired and wireless deployment. The streamlined process saves time and valuable fiscal resources.

Cisco Smart Install will help with making sure costs are contained while accelerating how quickly we can deploy this optimal solution to get schools up and running”, says Vern Alvarado, network infrastructure supervisor at MCOE.

$4 gas is hurting everyone’s pocket. People are even talking about $5 down the road. But the buses are not very crowded yet. Perhaps it’s a sign that this time around, we’re commuting less, and logging on more.

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2 Comments.


  1. I think this is very shoddy analysis. You mean to tell me in less than 4 years the demand for gas is somehow some less inelastic. I live in in Northern VA and I can tell you we aren’t commuting less. There are a few reasons you may be seeing less people on the commuter trains. Many fewer people are working:

    4M fewer people are considered part of the labor force since 2008 with 1.2M being removed in Dec 2011/Jan 2012 one month time period alone.

    The U6 unemployment number is 15.1%

    http://go.madmimi.com/redirects/fac3a1e1cf3a4fcbfc3cf8f2dc74b840?pa=7484980242

    The idea that gas prices are somehow less relevant due to the fact that many poeple telecommute is simply insulting to my intelligence. Try getting out of the Bay Area for some fresh perpective.

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  2. March 1, 2012 at 1:26 pm

    Points well taken. Agreed that many factors drive gas prices and public transportation.

    Thanks for your perspective,

    Steven Song

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