Fears of soaring utility bills at home could lead telecommuters to trade the discomfort of the cold for the misery of traffic jams.
With school-time traffic increasing, there are concerns that attempts to reduce car trips and create quieter, cleaner and safer commutes could be thwarted by the energy crisis.
Suburban and city streets were significantly busier yesterday as the new school year got underway in earnest. The end of many officials’ terms of service and the return of colleges are likely to complicate conditions in the coming weeks.
Despite the extra activity, traffic levels are not back to pre-Covid levels – a trend that is helping to keep transport emissions down.
Remote working, soaring petrol and diesel prices, cuts in public transport fares, more bike lanes and the launch of the Safe Routes to School program all helped mitigate September’s surge.
Hundreds of schools have applied for Safe Routes funding to provide protected hiking and biking trails, bike parking and shelters.
Program manager Tracey Lydon said the initiative helped with climate, congestion and costs. The average distance to primary school nationwide is 1.5 km.
“Considering that there are 183 days in a school year, a family with a 1.5km round trip cycle could save about €225 on both pick up and drop off on fuel alone,” she said.
But as Covid worries fizzle out for many, more workers are returning to offices and it’s believed rising energy bills could steer more in that direction.
Transport Secretary Eamon Ryan told an Oireachtas committee this week that remote work and hub arrangements may require more attention to ensure the healthy practices formed during Covid continue.
He said people may face the prospect of having to return to the office to try to keep their home expenses down.
“I don’t think we’re going to go back to five days a week. I think most people want some kind of hybrid system,” he added.
“But I think one of the issues that could complicate that is that it could be expensive to heat homes all day.”
He said there is currently no plan to increase homework allowances in the upcoming budget.
In 2019, the traffic volumes between the first day of the summer vacation and the first day of the fall semester were up to a million trips apart.
Covid has skewed the gap in 2020 and 2021, but this year it doesn’t appear to be as big.
Transport Infrastructure Ireland is monitoring traffic counting stations and will have a clearer picture of trends early next week.
https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/soaring-home-heating-bills-may-force-return-to-the-office-as-no-plan-to-increase-work-from-home-allowances-in-budget-41955075.html Rising home heating bills could force a return to the office as there are no plans in the budget to increase work-from-home allowances