RealTime IT News

Telecommuting Eases NYC Transit Strike Pain

UPDATED: New Yorkers have come a long way since the last transit strike 25 years ago.

In that relatively short timeframe, the city has grown from business capital of the developed world into a true center of global commerce, with untold trillions of dollars in transactions whipping through an unseen network each day.

Today, unlike 1980, much of that business can be done with the sweep of a wireless mouse or the push of a remote button. From Tokyo's Nikkei, to London's Footsie, to Wall Street's NASDAQ, commerce can as easily be conducted from your kitchen as in your office.

And although New Yorkers certainly have come a long way, the biggest change, perhaps, is they no long have to go a long way.

Telecommuting wasn't exactly a household word back in 1980. And if you wanted to get a job done, it meant being at your desk to shuffle through papers that needed to be signed in triplicate by supervisors before being stacked away in those ubiquitous metal filing cabinets that used to line office walls.

But telecommuting is likely easing the pain that the Transport Workers Union's strike has brought business.

Much of the internetnews.com team has been forced today to work remotely. From Brooklyn to the west side of the city, and like most other days spread out all over the country, the nations Internet infrastructure allows the publication to continue conducting business even when staffers are too far away to make it the brick-and-mortar office.

Most employees of Jupitermedia, internetnews.com's parent company, have remote access to internal networks, databases, files and e-mail.

Today, the strike by 33,000 transit workers that left nearly the 7 million people who use mass transit out in the cold, can't grind commerce to a halt in the "old-fashioned" way it did back in 1980.

At least, online it can't. Above ground is another story, as New York-based workers who had to be in the office hoofed it, pedaled bikes in sub-zero temperatures, or otherwise cajoled spots in commuter cars and available taxicabs in order to get to where they needed to be today.

The continued growth of broadband throughout the Untied States, plus the development of remote corporate networks, has made working from home as efficient as video conferencing with colleagues on a different coast.

And that access has become big business, as evidenced by the number of Web services providers jumping in to help local business today.

Torrance, Calif.-based LiveOffice, a provider of Web services, said today it is offering free Web conferencing and teleconferencing services to any New Yorker affected by the strike.

"We want everyone in New York to have access to conferencing technologies so that they can effectively conduct business from home without commuting," Ted Heieck, product manager for LiveOffice, said in a statement. "Our Web-based services are easy to use and perfectly suited to help New Yorkers stay productive during the transit strike."

Other firms such as the New York-based M5, are also scoring big with their clients today.

"Thirty percent of our employees are telecommuting today," Dan Hoffman, M5's CEO and president, said from his Brooklyn home today. His company focuses on outsourced, VoIP phone systems for business owners, CTOs and CFOs looking to avoid buying or maintaining a phone system and the phone lines connected to it.

Hoffman also added that M5 has 400 clients in the New York metropolitan area and estimates approximately 10,000 individuals in those firms use the service, many of which are likely to use the technology remotely during the strike.

"Many of our clients today have had to use our technology to telecommute," he said, referring to the services that essentially replicate the same functionality as the office.

Still, an average of 7 million people ride the subway every day, and the disruption will prevent people from going to work, cause millions of dollars in economic damage and seriously upend the life of the city in the week before Christmas.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg has estimated the strike will cost the economy $400 million per day, and the city government would lose $22 million a day in tax revenue and overtime police.

Some New Yorkers, however, seem anxious to profit from the event, and the shear speed of communication today has helped the entrepreneurial-inclined.

Instead of taking an add out in the local papers as was the case in 1980, brave entrepreneurs immediately began posting ads on portals such as craigslist.com in an effort to either snag a ride or earn some extra cash.

One of the first ads by a spelling-challenged, entrepreneur-minded individual to go up this morning during rush hour read: Transit Strike!!! Crash on my coach in SoHo!!!

The add continued:

Live too far to walk to work? Come crash on my coach. Friendly environment. 2BR basement apartmartment with 1 male/1 female roommates. Stay one night or more. Highest bidder gets the coach. Min $60/night.

Hopefully this intrepid entrepreneur doesn't have his high school gym teacher available for people to sleep on, but the idea is the same as hundreds of others posted in the early hours of the strike.

For more information commuters should log onto NYC.gov's Alternative Transportation Information Center.