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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883


Your commute to work

The route to and from one’s workplace, commonly known as a “commute,” varies widely among drivers.  The time it takes people to get to work depends not only upon the distance involved, but also on traffic, road conditions and weather.

How long is your commute?  Where we live and work may not always be by choice, but those who spend an hour or more to reach their place of employment have always had my respect, or at least my amazement and sympathy.  It seems that adding a couple of hours to a workday is above and beyond the call of duty.

Inland Empire commutes requiring that sort of time are rare, but they do exist.  For years, a friend made a daily round-trip from Spokane to a Pullman workplace, piling on an extra three hours to his total “work day.”

Around here, it generally requires a lengthy distance to create those time-consuming commutes.  But in larger cities, even those living relatively close to work may spend lots of time in cars (or busses) getting to work.

Driving through Los Angeles (especially at rush hour, but actually anytime), enduring multiple stoppages, I often wonder how anyone can deal with it everyday.  I also wonder how commercial drivers (delivery, etc) make suitable job progress when so much of their day is spent sitting still in stopped traffic.

We all know that the traffic factor manifests itself most famously on Los Angeles freeways, but Seattle residents are also familiar with “gridlock,” and we even see our share of slowdowns and stoppages during morning and evening rush hours right here.

In terms of a minimal commute, I suppose those who work at home are at the leanest end of the spectrum.  Working from home or living at your remote workplace will certainly negate the need for a commute, but that wouldn’t be good for everyone.

Some individuals embrace the time spent commuting to and from work, like my friend who drove to Pullman everyday.  He considered that period of time to himself (away from work, workers, home and family) to be therapeutic and looked forward to it.

At least his drive was somewhat scenic and free of traffic.  I can’t imagine that spending a similar length of time among a “sea” of stopped vehicles could ever be construed as beneficial in any way, but there are many who don’t seem to mind it.

If they DO mind it, there are still 3.4 million Americans who participate in what is described in a USA Today article as an “extreme commute” of 90 minutes or more each way to work.

If you think your commute is unduly long, the daily duties of those 3.4 million Americans should make you feel better.  For example, a Trailways bus in the state of New York embarks at 5:05 a.m. each morning moving 42 bleary-eyed commuters over the 85-mile, 2-hour trip into Manhattan.

That quadruples the national average of 25 minutes for the one-way journey to one’s place of employment!  If your commute takes less than 25 minutes, consider yourself lucky (unless seeking more “quiet” time for yourself).

The accelerating price of close-in housing tends to push people farther from city cores in search of affordable dwellings in a continuing trend, so long workplace commutes are in the future for many.

Various planners are spending billions to improve mass transit, but for many that will only offer a conveyance option, not less time commuting.  The need to transport people from the country to the city, whether by automobile, train or bus, will continue.  Beyond the prohibitive cost of city core living, many simply choose a rural lifestyle.

It is possible that with enough rural development, companies may consider building away from metropolitan centers in the future.  Today, however, that scenario is the exception rather than the rule.

Telecommuting and flexible schedules may someday curtail the growth of extreme commuting.  But for now, a NASA worker in Huntsville, AL, David Argenti, makes a 200-mile round trip every day from his Spring Hill, TN home.  He says, “It’s amazing what you can get used to.”

Amazing indeed!

Readers may contact Bill Love via email at