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Light Roast // Morning Brew // Update
What happens when commuting plunges
Morning Brew October 18, 2020

Light Roast

Good Sunday morning and welcome to Light Roast—or as we like to call it, Morning Brew in sweatpants.

Light Roast is typically reserved for Brew readers with 3+ referrals, but sometimes we like to send it to everyone to give you a taste of what it's all about. So what will you find in this newsletter?

  • One longer article written by us
  • Links to 10 longer articles written by other people
  • Q&A 

Remember, to get Light Roast in your inbox every Sunday, all you need is three referrals to Morning Brew. Have a great day and go Eagles.

Neal Freyman


When Rush Hour Goes Quiet

Office space


Remember commuting? That thing you used to do when you’d get in your car half-asleep, pop on The Daily, and drive 40 minutes to your company’s parking lot...then do the same thing in reverse eight hours later?

During the pandemic, the word “commute” has become nearly as outdated as “doth.” In the spring, the remote work revolution sent tens of millions of Americans out of their cubicles and into their living rooms, significantly reducing the number of people traveling to offices each day.

That’s probably not going to change in the near term. Only 28% of U.S. employees expect to return to their workplaces by the end of 2020, according to a recent Conference Board survey

Forgive my unsophisticated writing, but...this is a huge deal! We should talk about the effects of a drastically lower level of commuting. 

In the before times...

Commutes were getting longer. The average U.S. commute grew to a record 27.1 minutes in 2018, meaning the average American was spending more than nine full calendar days (225 hours) traveling to and from work.

How were they doing it? 

  • 73.6% drove by themselves in a private car.
  • And despite how crowded the subway felt during rush hour, transit only accounted for a tiny share of commutes. In fact, more people worked from home (5.3%) than took public transportation to work (4.9%) in 2018. 

Commuting is costly. Off the top of my head, expenses include gas, wear on the car, and potentially tolls and parking. But commuting has other costs, too. Unless you have a Tesla, your car is a grade-A carbon emitter. Studies show your mental health suffers when you sit in traffic. And what about the most precious commodity of all: time. What could you be doing with those 27.1 minutes you’re not focusing on the road?  

We don’t have to guess

The pandemic has revealed what happens when fewer than a third of employees go to the office. So far, we’ve learned...

  • The savings are real. Upwork found that $758 million is saved each day when former car commuters switch to remote work. That’s led to total savings of $90 billion since the pandemic began.
  • Media consumption is changing. For example, public radio giant NPR said it lost about 25% of its audience in Q2 2020 over last year when commuters evaporated.
  • Cars will gain at transit’s expense. More than 60% of respondents to a survey plan to use cars instead of public transportation when they resume commuting to the office. That’s simply because cars are viewed as the safer option in these pandemic times, despite heavy investments in subway cleaning and studies that show fears of viral spread in public transit are unwarranted

One can’t help but wonder about second- and third-order implications of a commuting plunge, too—like what a drop in toll revenues means for future infrastructure investments, or what an extra ~30 minutes of sleep means for worker productivity.

And there are many things we just don’t know yet, like the environmental impact or exactly how many fewer people are on the road every morning (of course, many people reading this still travel to their workplace). 

Looking might be an interesting activity for readers who aren’t commuting anymore to reflect on your new routine. Are you sleeping more? Have you begun to work out in the morning? A walk around the block before logging on? Reply and let me know.



Want to Improve Your Portfolio? 88% of Wealth Managers Say This Asset Does Just That

Sometimes, the smartest thing to do with your money is to copy what the top dogs are doing. So when the vast majority of wealth managers recommend investing in art, we’re inclined to agree.

But don’t just take our word for it. Check out these juicy stats published recently by one of the world’s largest banks:

  • 180%: art outperforming the S&P from 2000 to 2018
  • 0.13: the lowest stock market correlation of any asset class
  • 10–30%: historical yearly price appreciation

The only problem? Access to this under-the-radar performer is exclusive to all but the ultra-wealthy. Masterworks has disrupted the industry by giving every investor access to the very same investments reserved for founders and CEOs.

Offerings can sell out quickly, so act fast and skip the 25,000 waitlist for being part of the Brew Crew.**


Top 10

A man walks through an empty airport terminal

KENA BETANCUR/AFP via Getty Images

  1. A deep dive into the future of Clear, the biometric data company that makes it easy to skip lines at the airport. (OneZero)
  2. The profile of Timothée Chalamet you've been waiting for. (GQ)
  3. A psychoanalytic reading of social media and the death drive. (Bookforum)
  4. Audio’s opportunity and who will capture it. (Matthew Ball)
  5. Revisiting that age-old question: Are we living in a simulation? (Scientific American)
  6. Which states had the best pandemic responses and why? (Politico)
  7. These are always fun: What luxe lockdown looks like in Washington, D.C. (Washingtonian)
  8. “Man loses 200 times at crane game, calls police to investigate, staff member loses 300 times too.” (SoraNews24)
  9. An amazing card trick with mesmerizing narration. (YouTube)
  10. Explore Sunset Boulevard over the past 50 years. (Getty)


Mail Bag

Q from Anonymous in Anonymousville: What makes you want to wake up every morning?

Neal’s A: Oh, easily the people I work with every day. Every member of the Brew team is brilliant, thoughtful, and most important of all, kind. We constantly push each other to be better employees and better people.

In fact, we have a bunch of positions you should consider applying for (smooth transition). I’ll highlight a few here:

  • Executive editor: You’ll be the head editorial honcho for all business content at the Brew
  • Lead editor/analyst: You’ll be the person in charge of content for our first paid product 
  • Retail Brew writer: You’ll write for the enormously successful (and growing) Retail Brew franchise
  • Executive producer: You’ll oversee Business Casual and launch new podcasts

Here are the rest of the open positions. And keep in mind, we are all remote for at least the next few months, so you can be too! 

Got another question to ask the Brew Crew? Do it right here.



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** A Note From Masterworks

See Masterworks' important disclaimer.

Written by @Neal_Freyman

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