December 1, 2004

So You Think Your Commute Is Bad?

3.4 million Americans "endure a daily 'extreme commute' of 90 minutes or more each way to work," USA Today reports. They're among the fastest-growing segment of commuters, according to a Census study, Journey to Work, released in March. Their commute times are more than triple the national average of 25.5 minutes each way. "

I had a few summer jobs with commutes longer than that -- I'd leave my parents' Long Island home at 7:20 a.m or so to get into Manhattan by 9. But that was because I was taking a car to a bus to a subway; actual mileage probably wasn't more than 25 each way. However, the commuters being profiled here are going so far that "they actually travel through several weather zones — from the edge of the Mojave Desert to the Pacific Ocean in Southern California, or from Pennsylvania resort towns in the Poconos to midtown Manhattan."

That's insane.

But it also goes along with a recent Globe article about Rhode Island towns marketing themselves as affordable exurbs of Boston.

Few people do this by choice (some do, preferring the high pay of a city job and a more rural lifestyle). Instead, it's mostly about finding decent housing in an attractive community with good schools that they can afford.

But personal affect on lack of leisure time aside, the societal impact here is staggering. Our tax dollars pay for building and maintaining all those extra lanes of highway needed. Our dependence on foreign oil soars when so many people drive alone in an SUV 150 miles or more roundtrip every day. So does our air pollution.

Wouldn't it make some sense to work on creating affordable, attractive housing closer to jobs -- or creating jobs closer to available housing?

1 comment:

  1. If the answer to road congestion is always, "add more roads", this answer avoids the more pertinent question, "Why must people drive lengthy distances to meet their needs?" Will adding more roads reduce the need for long-distance driving? No, it will not. It only increases road capacity, practically guranteeing more long-distance driving. The answer to the question, "Why do we drive like robots?" is we have not invested in the community assets that allow citizens to meet their need for schooling, medical care, a variety of occupations, entertainments, civic and cultural functions within reasonable distances from home. Instead we have invested in roads and highways and parking garages, big shiny cars, diesel-spewing buses and isolated, exclusionary rail systems.

    We drive too much, too far, for too many reasons. I used to say, "No car, no matter how fueled, can reduce the environmental, economic and social impacts of road infrastructure nor improve traffic management." On closer inspection, it appears that Hybrid technology has more potential to affect land-use patterns than Hydrogen fuel cell technology.

    Because a Hybrid battery pack can propel a vehicle only a limited range, this limitation creates incentives to drive shorter distances, leading to the strengthening of local economies with destinations accessible via means of travel other than driving. The battery is zero 'local' emissions. The recharging can be accomplished via the electric company or rooftop solar panels, both of which may remain less expensive than the cost of fuels. This begs the question, "Why are we investing in Hydrogen fuel cells?" Is Hydrogen the new petroleum?