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Is the end near for Commuter Trains hauling thousands of people to City Hubs even after COVID-19 because of work at home/Telecommuting

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ATU
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Is the end near for Commuter Trains hauling thousands of people to City Hubs even after COVID-19 because of work at home/Telecommuting
Posted by ATU on Saturday, September 26, 2020 2:09 PM

I saw this a few years ago in Metra CNW  Ogilvie Transportation Center from when I visted in the late 1980s to 2010s. In the 1980s there were thousands of Comodity Traders and related staff and finace folks jamming the trains at rush hour and today it is a trickle of what it was as far as I can see on METRA.. Why pay millions in fancy skysrapers and AC and HVAC and water bills and rent when you could  have shown that you could have these folks work from home on there own dime due to COVID? Same goes for Colleges and Schools why spend all that money on School Buses and heat when they can learn from home?

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Posted by Flintlock76 on Monday, September 28, 2020 10:42 AM

That's a very good question, and the answer is "It remains to be seen."

The question of "Work from home" versus "Work from the office" was asked long before COVID-19 came on the scene.  "Work from home" theoretically sounded good, but some studies began to show that rather than efficiency going up, efficiency went down.  There were many possible reasons but no one reason.  Unavoidable distractions in the home environment, the lack of face-to-face interplay between employees and the resulting depressing sense of isolation, and in some cases the lack of supervision.

Many employers questioned the "Work from home" concept and then COVID-19 came along and forced the concept on them.  How it's working now I haven't heard one way or another.  How it's working for schools remains to be seen as well.  Colleges?  If they  stay with it they're going to have to re-think the whole tuition and organizational structure, no-ones going to pay a college for facilities they can't use and faculty they can't face-to-face with.

At any rate COVID-19's not going to last forever.  It'll go away when it runs out of people to infect, or if it mutates into a harmless form, or a vaccine's developed.  Then we'll see what the "New Normal" is. 

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Posted by charlie hebdo on Monday, September 28, 2020 12:37 PM

Metra is definitely way down on ridership.  Many will return to Loop offices when it is safe but some will not,  at least not every day. 

Schools around here are either in person,  online or hybrid depending on grade level but seem to be returning to in-person instruction. 

Colleges really need in-person instruction for most classes except perhaps lecture format classes.  

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Posted by alphas on Monday, September 28, 2020 4:24 PM

Universities are in deep trouble if thay can't have normal classes by the fall of 2021.   Most Universities really only make money on undergraduate student tutition with the extent of the profit varying considerably among them as a group. Contrary to what you would expect, most nowadays are lucky to come close to breaking even on research.    Then there are also the dorms and dining halls that are not being used.   The majority of them contract out the food services and some the housing operations which lessens the impact.    But the ones who operated their own dorms and food service have had major losses.    Even with their employees laid off, they still have the Unemployment Comp expenses and the fixed costs of the brick & mortar.    If their housing & food service employees are union (and the majority of those operating their own H & FS are) then there are other additional costs.     However, tenured faculty have it much better as most are still receiving their full salaries and benefits with some actually having more time to do independent research & consulting--where all the money usually goes entirely into their pocket.

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Posted by MidlandMike on Monday, September 28, 2020 10:47 PM

People were also predicting the decline of New York after 9/11, but that didn't happen.

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Posted by BaltACD on Tuesday, September 29, 2020 3:31 PM

Telecommuting does not enhance the educational experience.  It may broadcast the 'required information', however, not everybody learns and comprehends what is needed from lectures - people learn in multiple ways, among them peer group interactions with each other as the 'group' tries to help their group members - up close and personal.

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Posted by charlie hebdo on Tuesday, September 29, 2020 4:20 PM

alphas: You might want to check the basis for your comment about faculty grant funding. 

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Posted by zugmann on Tuesday, September 29, 2020 4:28 PM

charlie hebdo
alphas: You might want to check the basis for your comment about faculty grant funding. 

But that wouldn't make a good narrative. 

 The opinions expressed here represent my own and not those of my employer or any other railroad, company, or person.

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Posted by CMStPnP on Tuesday, September 29, 2020 9:04 PM

ATU

I saw this a few years ago in Metra CNW  Ogilvie Transportation Center from when I visted in the late 1980s to 2010s. In the 1980s there were thousands of Comodity Traders and related staff and finace folks jamming the trains at rush hour and today it is a trickle of what it was as far as I can see on METRA.. Why pay millions in fancy skysrapers and AC and HVAC and water bills and rent when you could  have shown that you could have these folks work from home on there own dime due to COVID? Same goes for Colleges and Schools why spend all that money on School Buses and heat when they can learn from home?

For most jobs it comes down to basic trust between the Manager and Employee that the productivity is the same at home as it is in a centralized workplace.    I was hired as a remote employee, so I know I am going to be work at home no matter what.   95% of the other workers in my workplace were hired to work in the office downtown.    The bulk of that 95% is returning back to the centralized office downtown after the pandemic is over.    Primarily because the managers feel they need oversight and supervision.    Has zero to do with business need or which is cheaper.

Commodity Traders and Floor Traders need to be on the floor of the exchange primarily because they need to feel the emotion or heartbeat of the environment that is driving the market.    They do not get that at home.   I am willing to bet that if you asked them the bulk of them feel very uncomfortable working at home in an isolated environment, even with Skype.

In my view there will be some that continue to work at home but it will be in the very low double digits.......it won't be the majority of workers.

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Posted by BaltACD on Tuesday, September 29, 2020 11:23 PM

CMStPnP
 
ATU

I saw this a few years ago in Metra CNW  Ogilvie Transportation Center from when I visted in the late 1980s to 2010s. In the 1980s there were thousands of Comodity Traders and related staff and finace folks jamming the trains at rush hour and today it is a trickle of what it was as far as I can see on METRA.. Why pay millions in fancy skysrapers and AC and HVAC and water bills and rent when you could  have shown that you could have these folks work from home on there own dime due to COVID? Same goes for Colleges and Schools why spend all that money on School Buses and heat when they can learn from home? 

For most jobs it comes down to basic trust between the Manager and Employee that the productivity is the same at home as it is in a centralized workplace.    I was hired as a remote employee, so I know I am going to be work at home no matter what.   95% of the other workers in my workplace were hired to work in the office downtown.    The bulk of that 95% is returning back to the centralized office downtown after the pandemic is over.    Primarily because the managers feel they need oversight and supervision.    Has zero to do with business need or which is cheaper.

Commodity Traders and Floor Traders need to be on the floor of the exchange primarily because they need to feel the emotion or heartbeat of the environment that is driving the market.    They do not get that at home.   I am willing to bet that if you asked them the bulk of them feel very uncomfortable working at home in an isolated environment, even with Skype.

In my view there will be some that continue to work at home but it will be in the very low double digits.......it won't be the majority of workers.

Vetting, Training, Supervision - not so much with all the work force at home

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Posted by bratkinson on Tuesday, September 29, 2020 11:45 PM

I have little doubt that at least 60% or more of the big city downtown workers will return when Covid-19 is no longer the MSM-hyped pandemic it is today.  Death rates have greatly declined, so it's on it's way out like just about any 'regular' flu.

Certainly big corporations are evaluating the economics of maintaining a large downtown office space for 1000 workers vs having 300-400 permanently work from home (or one day per week at a shared desk) and moving to smaller, less costly space in the suburbs?  But then, if they wait long enough, the price per square foot for downtown office space will drop from the stratosphere to something more realistic with a long term contract.  Landlords' worst nightmare is empty space.

Speaking of landlords, how many of the residential landlords (and commercial ones, too!) will be forced to lose their substantial investments to foreclosure account insufficent rents coming in to pay the mortgage, taxes, insurance, maintenance, etc?

The big problem is that due to congressional deadlock, nothing has been done in the past 5 months or so to keep the smaller businesses afloat.  So, the one of a kind deli, food truck, and even small store-front businesses won't be returning.  What happens when the downtown white collar workers can't grab a bite for lunch at their favorite 'joint' or grab a quick coffee and a pastry on the way in to work as those businesses are gone forever. 

Throw in various retailers that won't return to their downtown locations as they've been burned and looted.  Now throw in the growing residential unit vacancy rates in downtowns, that's a bunch of small 'trendy' downtown places losing their customer base, if they haven't already closed forever.

Even some of the 'great downtown hotels' have closed their doors forever as well. How long will it take for sufficient demand to exist for some investor to pick up a hotel at a foreclosure sale and ultimately bring it back to life? 

And don't forget the tens of thousands of hourly lower income workers that used to work downtown that won't be coming back.  That's many more thousands of daily commuter train, subway and bus riders lost as well.

It'll be interesting to watch how decimated downtown areas recover.  There's numerous online articles that the white collar workers were least affected by the lockdowns as in many cases, they could work from home.  

But blue collar workers don't have that luxury.  If they can't work, they don't get paid, don't pay the rent, skip meals, etc.  The question really should be: When do THEY get back to 'normal' again?  If ever? 

Will the US and the rest of the world EVER get back to the 'normal' we had in 2019?  That's now as impossible as getting back to 'Camelot' of the early 1960s.

 

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Posted by charlie hebdo on Wednesday, September 30, 2020 7:47 AM

~7 million cases and 200,000+ deaths (and counting) is hardly mainstream media hype. Otherwise an interesting post. 

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Posted by D.Carleton on Wednesday, September 30, 2020 8:52 AM

Phone call from the not-too-distant-future: "Harris, how's that report coming along? It's been two weeks."

"Hard at it sir. Should have something to you by next Friday. A lot of things have cropped up."

"So I've noticed...from the pictures you've posted to your Instagram page over the last two weeks from Barbados. Get your kiester back in the office. NOW!"

Editor Emeritus, This Week at Amtrak

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Posted by seppburgh2 on Monday, October 5, 2020 10:05 PM
 

What the bosses are doing and you can be next  

https://www.cnn.com/2020/09/10/business/jpmorgan-back-to-work/index.html

Years ago I worked for 30+ years in one of the top 5 health insurance companies.  The IT folks were broken out into a service company subsidiary where after 3 years the CEO of the subsidiary canceled all work from home arrangements, be in contractual work arrangement, or part-time work from home.  "Get into a company office in the next 10 days or get out, I am paying rent and your to be at your desk."  Ya, needless to say many key SMEs who had contractual work from home left.  I am not there anymore, but only COVID brought work from home back.  

The bottom line, yes transit populations are way down.  But, give it time for the CEOs to start doing what their buddies are doing, and traffic will be back to normal.

 

 
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Posted by JPS1 on Monday, October 5, 2020 10:37 PM

D.Carleton
 Phone call from the not-too-distant-future: "Harris, how's that report coming along? It's been two weeks."

"Hard at it sir. Should have something to you by next Friday. A lot of things have cropped up." 

My company implemented a work from home option where feasible 25 years ago.  We did it in part to help retain women professionals, i.e. accountants, engineers, financial analysts, etc. with young children.  They were some of our most productive workers, and we did not want to lose them just because they had kids.
 
Do you hire people to fill spaces or perform tasks?  This is the key question.  In many instances it does not matter where the task is performed.  It is critical, however, for the manager to make sure that each employee on his or her team knows what is expected and when it is to be delivered.  In other words, managers are expected to manage.  Wow, what a novel idea!
 
It worked very well for us.  Also, it was an excellent recruiting tool.  In time most of the employees that could work from home came to miss the socializing attendant to working in an office or with a team.  So, most of them came into the office for at least half of the week.  But I had several colleagues that only came to the office the equivalent of one day a week for meetings 
 
The old heads never could get their arms around the idea of people performing their assigned tasks without being ridden like mules.  We fixed that problem.  We got rid of the old heads. 
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Posted by charlie hebdo on Tuesday, October 6, 2020 9:33 AM

JPS1

 

 
D.Carleton
 Phone call from the not-too-distant-future: "Harris, how's that report coming along? It's been two weeks."

"Hard at it sir. Should have something to you by next Friday. A lot of things have cropped up." 

 

My company implemented a work from home option where feasible 25 years ago.  We did it in part to help retain women professions, i.e. accountants, engineers, financial analysts, etc. with young children.  They were some of our most productive workers.
 
Do you hire people to fill spaces or perform tasks?  This is the key question.  In many instances it does not matter where the task is performed.  It is critical, however, for the manager to make sure that each employee on his or her team knows what is expected and when it is to be delivered.  In other words, managers are expected to manage.  Wow, what a novel idea!
 
It worked very well for us.  Also, it was an excellent recruiting tool.  In time most of the employees that could work from home came to miss the socializing attendant to working in an office or with a team.  So, most of them came into the office for at least half of the week.  But I had several colleagues that only came to the office the equivalent of one day a week for meetings 
 
The old heads never could get their arms around the idea of people performing their assigned tasks without being ridden like mules.  We fixed that problem.  We got rid of the old heads. 
 

Great post!  And with newer technologies for communication, including groups and video, distamce working should be (is) even easier and more efficient.

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Posted by Overmod on Tuesday, October 6, 2020 10:06 AM

charlie hebdo
And with newer technologies for communication, including groups and video, distance working should be (is) even easier and more efficient.

Even when I was in business school, there was a realization that certain types of 'business' lend themselves to what was then called 'teleworking', but others don't.  And within that, management style and effectiveness plays a substantial role in success or failure of 'distributed' working for particular companies or under particular project management.

Some of the 'personal memoir' books about technology management have interesting insights into what works, and what doesn't, when employees aren't physically present (or collaboration is artificially jiggered by crap conferencing software (Zoom is fast shaping up to be the PowerPoint of the 2020s...Whistling)

It has been interesting to see how 'management by walking around' has made transition into distributed environments -- there are ways to do it, and ways not to do it, and ways really, really not to do it.  And sometimes these vary by individual, or time of day, or circumstance.  One size can't, and doesn't, fit all.

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Posted by Erik_Mag on Tuesday, October 6, 2020 2:41 PM

alphas

Universities are in deep trouble if thay can't have normal classes by the fall of 2021. 

My kids are definitely not fans of on-line college instruction in lieu of normal in-person classes. A lot of the "college experience" is face to face interactions with the profs and other students. Not really sure if on-line classes are savings lives as locally we've had 4 deaths in the 20-29 age groups with 12,000+ confirmed cases for the same age group.

I would think fear of infection would continue to discourage transit ridership until vaccinations are readily available.

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Posted by charlie hebdo on Tuesday, October 6, 2020 2:57 PM

OM: You're too nasty about apps and software. I don't see any with your name on them, but then it's not clear what you actually do.  It's  much easier to ridicule everything out there that others develop.   

Zoom is used a lot for many purposes: lectures, even as the base for tele-sessions for psychotherapy. PP when done well,  works workforce teaching.

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Posted by Overmod on Tuesday, October 6, 2020 5:01 PM

I only ridicule the ridiculous.  Conferencing apps have been lame for decades, probably because the hardware alone needed to do teleconferencing 'right' is expensive and specialized.  FaceTime video in a plethora of little talking-head boxes is cute rhe first couple of times you see it, but it never gets much better than that.

The reason PowerPoint is derided is not that it's impossible to produce good presentations with it.  It's that so little of the material provided in the application itself, or the templates Microsoft provided, were graphically elegant (which was a source of some bemusement as the team that developed it was pretty good and the underlying rendering technology reasonable).  But that in itself is no worse than the boring schemes GM came up with for its own locomotive paint schemes when they worked magic for others.

The thing about PowerPoint is that so many of the presentations are not well put together ... and then in the conference proceedings the only thing you get is the slides, not the lecture that so often needs to accompany them.

Very similar things could be said about the tools and techniques that became popular in the early days of the Web, when garish colors, thousands of fonts, and flipping or spinning e-mail icons or banners became possible but broadband and multicast protocols hadn't been widely introduced.  There was a wonderful site called 'Web Pages that Suck' that was one of the early forces toward actual IxD ... as they put it 'you can learn good web design by looking at bad web design', and you can.  But sometimes really bad design or user hostility rises to art-form levels...

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Posted by seppburgh2 on Tuesday, October 6, 2020 5:46 PM
 

As one great leader once said, "So it is on PowerPoint, so shall it be."

 
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Posted by charlie hebdo on Tuesday, October 6, 2020 10:00 PM

OM: I found bad PPs were the fault of a lousy prep and poor presenting. GIGO. 

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Posted by Overmod on Tuesday, October 6, 2020 10:37 PM

charlie hebdo
I found bad PPs were the fault of a lousy prep and poor presenting. GIGO. 

That is very true, but really well-written software, like MS Word 4 for the Macintosh, actively helps you learn and gives you good resources and layout/design options out of the box.  PP gave you increasingly complicated versions of the Autocontent Wizard...

Here is an example of PowerPoint prepared by someone who shares some of my opinions.  I look forward to seeing his take on Zoom... I suggest using the ExCom meeting about surgical strike.

If you want something truly ridiculous in software 'design', though, look at one of the revisions of Final Cut on the Macintosh when they decided to harmonize the desktop and tablet versions.  Ever done any filmmaking?  Well, everything you thought you knew was wrong, and crApple's version of splicing together clips of video without being able to sync either to film frame rate or SMPTE code was suddenly your new choice.  

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Posted by ATU4070 on Wednesday, October 14, 2020 5:46 PM

I just called a local goverment worker who is working from home...I could tell he was in the Bathroom on the throne by the echo..BTW MOTOWN used the bathroom as a sound chamber in Detroit

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Posted by Flintlock76 on Thursday, October 15, 2020 6:04 PM

Welcome aboard ATU4070!

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Posted by zugmann on Thursday, October 15, 2020 6:06 PM

Flintlock76

Welcome aboard ATU4070!

 

He's been on this ride a few times. 

 The opinions expressed here represent my own and not those of my employer or any other railroad, company, or person.

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Posted by Murphy Siding on Friday, October 16, 2020 7:35 AM

charlie hebdo

OM: I found bad PPs were the fault of a lousy prep and poor presenting. GIGO. 

 

I agree, but add lazy to that equation as well. We tried to line up a big sales meeting with our largest vendor. We asked their reps to just get up in front of a couple dozen building contractors and talk about their products, something they are very good at. They said no dice. It was either their corporate produced power point on the screen or nothing. We chose nothing.

       Of course, everyone learns differently. I've never met anyone who said the best way for them to learn was to have someone present a power point and then read each slide to them word-for-word.

Thanks to Chris / CopCarSS for my avatar.

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Posted by CMStPnP on Sunday, October 18, 2020 11:01 PM

Another big issue with working from home is many homes were picked by the purchaser to be in rural or relatively cheap areas to live vs the big city.   Your going to find Fiber Optic service non-existant in those areas as well as unreliable internet service.    Some of the communities METRA serves fall under that category.   So I am still leaning on the commute by rail comming back.

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Posted by Unionman on Tuesday, October 20, 2020 1:32 PM

The complete destuction of downtown retail in the Midwest I found out when I took a walk thru Cincy and Columbus Ohio when all the Department Stores were gone and even had trouble finding a place that sells socks and shoes.--Other then sports and bars and to go to court to pay a fine there is no reason to go downtown anymore-http://www.departmentstorehistory.net/disc.htm

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Posted by CMStPnP on Tuesday, October 20, 2020 6:06 PM

Unionman

The complete destuction of downtown retail in the Midwest I found out when I took a walk thru Cincy and Columbus Ohio when all the Department Stores were gone and even had trouble finding a place that sells socks and shoes.--Other then sports and bars and to go to court to pay a fine there is no reason to go downtown anymore-http://www.departmentstorehistory.net/disc.htm

That is so sad about Ohio.   Here in Dallas though, I rarely go downtown to shop but I do go downtown for BB games, Concerts, State Fair of Texas, Museums and Acquarium, some Conventions, to Eat Out sometimes,  Travel on Amtrak via Union Station.    So I personally have not abandoned Downtown Dallas yet.

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