TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Technology Helps People Weather NYC Transit Strike

Technology Helps People Weather NYC Transit Strike

Deepti Hajela (
Wed, 21 Dec 2005 22:43:27 -0600

By DEEPTI HAJELA, Associated Press Writer

The last time the city had a transit strike, in 1980, a fax machine
was considered cutting-edge. Fast forward 25 years, and it is a world
of wireless laptops, Internet-enabled cell phones and telecommuting
from your living room.

And that, some say, is a big reason the bus and subway strike has not
caused the utter chaos that many people had expected.

"We're open for business as usual," said Selena Morris, spokeswoman
for Merrill Lynch & Co. The financial management company had some
employees working from home, while others could go to various regional
offices if getting into Manhattan was too difficult.

"It makes it a lot easier for people to function when you have a
crisis like this, just to log in from wherever you are," she
said. "It's inconvenient, obviously, but I think we've been able to
work around it."

Commuters have also Internet technology to find rides or a couch to
sleep on, and to fire off e-mails from home or the car.

Clearly, there are a lot of jobs in New York City for which working
from home is not an option, such as in retail and the service
industry. But for segments like the financial industry, technology
makes a big difference, said Frank Lichtenberg, professor of economics
at Columbia Business School.

The strike "does still represent a significant disruption," he said,
but "clearly this information technology has reduced the cost of this
kind of disruption and made it somewhat easier to bear."

Commuters have posted ads on Web sites like Craigslist, looking for or
offering rides to meet the four-person-per-car rule for cars entering
a large portion of Manhattan, and offering to rent out space to anyone
looking for a place to crash for the night.

A one-bedroom apartment near Times Square was being offered for $140
per night, while a studio near Grand Central Terminal was going for

Dennis C. Fleischmann, managing partner of the Bryan Cave law firm's
New York office, said the strike was having a "minimal" effect, with
most employees able to get in and others working from home.

"These days in our business, between e-mail and voice mail, you can
function reasonably well from a remote location," he said. "In terms
of productivity we don't really lose very much."

Associated Press Writer Anick Jesdanun contributed to this report.

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press.

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