Thursday, April 12, 2007

They're Going the Distance.

What's the longest commute you can put up with? According to the last census, the average one-way commute time in America is 24 minutes. In my experience that seems to greatly underestimate how much time Americans really spend commuting. While I've always made it a high priority to keep my commute under 20 minutes, I've been surrounded by people who think nothing of a driving 45 minutes one-way to work. That's an hour-and-a-half in a car every day--yikes!

Moreover, my suspicion that the US Census underestimates the real average commute time is based on the fact that in most metropolitan areas it is totally impossible for a suburbanite to commute into the city in such a short time frame. Since a majority of workers in a metropolitan area usually come from outside the center city, and since suburb-to-center-city commutes are often more than a half-hour, it stands to reason that the average commute time should be higher.

Time is my most precious commodity (except for my jewel-encrusted dagger snagged on EBay!). Spending hours every day cooped up in a car, disconnected from other humans, losing valuable time that could be spent actually doing something fun, strikes me as a crummy way to live. Given how many other people are content with their long commutes, however, I've often wondered if I'm the one taking crazy pills.

The New Yorker has a brief article on the subject (I would post a link, but sadly I couldn't find the article online). It makes a few general points: The main point was that long commutes suck, and lots of people have long commutes. I don't know how they do it.

How long is your commute? If it's really long, how do you keep from going crazy?

Coming this Wednesday: Dedicated Lanes for Everyone!


Anonymous City worker, suburban resident said...

In Washington, D.C. most people commute between 30 to 1.5 hour -- one way. I can't believe it, but I have heard of people commuting two hours one way. My "commute" is twenty minutes on the Metro. However, I have about another twenty minutes of walking as well (to and fro stations). I am curious how people responding to surveys define "commute." Do they think in terms of door-to-door or just the part of being in a vehicle?

4:43 PM  
Blogger Zach K. said...

These are my random observations about commuting times:

- I used to have a 15-minute commute (walking) when I lived in Minneapolis.

- Nearly everyone I know in my group of friends in Minneapolis takes the bus to work and/or lives within a half-hour bus ride of the place of employment (I recently reevaluated this when the interstate bridge collapsed - I could not think of one person I knew that commuted over the bridge).

- Based on my office environment in Minneapolis an acceptable commute was anything less than 1 hour. Anything more than 1 hour was viewed as abnormally long.

- My commute in New York has expanded (door to door) to 45 minutes via subway moved to go approximately 9 miles from Queens to Lower Manhattan.

- Based on my co-workers in New York, the acceptable commute is anything less than 1 and 1/2 hour.

- Comment 1 identifies the importance of thinking about door-to-door commuting times rather than simply travel times.

Commuting is (I believe) often underreported as the time it takes to travel between areas (home and work district). There's always a few extra minutes tacked to park the car/walk to work, etc.

10:06 PM  

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