Time in Transit - Commuting
April 13, 2007 9:45 AM   Subscribe

There and Back Again: The Soul of the Commuter How long is your commute? Is it worth the personal and social cost? Nick Paumgarten in this week's New Yorker on the bargains Americans strike between their work lives and home lives.
posted by Miko (84 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I live 12.5 miles from my office (Downtown DC). I take a combination of bus and metro to get to it... 45 minutes one way.
posted by matty at 9:59 AM on April 13, 2007

My previous commute was an hour each way but I lived in a beautiful place (a redwood forest). Now my commute is about 2 miles, but I live in downtown San Jose (one of the outer most circles of hell). I still can't tell which is better, but I do love not having to get up at 4:30 to beat the rush.
posted by doctor_negative at 10:08 AM on April 13, 2007

I started motorcycle commuting this year. It's the first time ever that I arrive at work smiling. It's good for me monetarily, mentally and (what the hey, since it gets me out in the fresh 40 mph air) physically.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 10:08 AM on April 13, 2007

When I lived and worked in California (both SoCal and SF Bay area), I never had less than an hour's commute. Even NPR and books on tape only go so far in stop-'n-go traffic. I could never afford a house closer than fifty miles from my job.

Moved out of Cali and started telecommuting to work in Silicon Valley. My current commute is one minute if I stop in the kitchen for coffee on the way to the home office. Got a local position, which allows me to still work from home and only go to the office for meetings. The actual office location is thirteen miles one way, takes twenty minutes by car.
posted by Standeck at 10:09 AM on April 13, 2007

My commute runs about an hour and a quarter, all either on foot or by rail and light rail in North Jersey. It's ecologically sound, affordable ($151/mo for unlimited riding), and best of all, I get on, put my little neck-thing with the pass on it so it's visible, and sleep until we reach the end of the line.

I get some exercise in, too, walking 3/4s of a mile each way to and from the train in the morning.

A good rail transit system is a great thing.
posted by mephron at 10:12 AM on April 13, 2007

Half hour by car, no significant traffic, just enough time for a dose of news or sports talk. And it's so much easier to handle a commute when you're heading to your own business.
posted by schoolgirl report at 10:13 AM on April 13, 2007

45 minutes each way, bus and about 1.5 miles of walking. I'm on the bus just long enough to get some reading done, and podcasts make the walk more fun when the weather is bad.

I used to drive 50 miles a day in the Bay Area, taking about 1.25 hours each way. That sucked.

After that I telecommuted, but I found the lack of physical separation between work and home disconcerting.

I've got it good now, and I know it.
posted by gurple at 10:17 AM on April 13, 2007

I've been thinking about this a lot lately, as I look for a new job and consider just how far I'm willing to drive. Along the same lines as what doctor_negative said, I've come to the realization that the reason I don't mind my hour-each-way commute is that it's on a pleasant, somewhat scenic back road. That same commute on a crowded major highway would likely be untenable for me.

I hope that teleportation is perfected and commercially available before Howard Stern retires, or any morning commute will be far less tolerable.
posted by amro at 10:17 AM on April 13, 2007

45 minutes each way with BART and walking. I get to live in a place that I could never afford in San Francisco, get a stress free commute to the big city and get a nice mile walk in.

Even after reading those articles, I don't really see what the problem is with commuting. That last link makes an argument that essentially means "Spend time at home, stupid!" and dresses it up like it's the commuting, rather than the time away that's the demon. The same effect comes from overtime or a post work jog.

I've met people on buses and trains and the isolation when I'm not talking to someone is, if anything, therapeutic. Sorry, don't believe.

Nonetheless, good post.
posted by OrangeDrink at 10:27 AM on April 13, 2007

I decided about 10 years ago that I wanted to do my level best to always live and work in the same town. Fortunately, it's been possible so far, through two town/home/job combinations. The rewards I get from this integrated life can't be counted in dollars. Obviously having such a choice depends greatly on your line of work and family situation, but keeping a minimal commute as an intentional priority has helped me shape a lifestyle I really enjoy and feel much more a part of the city than if I lived well outside of it. It costs more to live near town, but with gas running near $3 a gallon again, I'm sure I'm making up in fuel savings what is going to rent.
posted by Miko at 10:28 AM on April 13, 2007

45 minutes each way. I walk. 1.8 miles back and and forth. I study Spanish on my iPod on my way to and from work.

Now that the weather's getting better, I love it.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:29 AM on April 13, 2007

40 miles, 50 minutes each way -- including 24 miles across the world's longest bridge.
posted by localroger at 10:31 AM on April 13, 2007

The same effect comes from overtime or a post work jog

Except that both of those activities were free-choice and confer other benefits: additional work accomplished, or fitness and relaxation. I personally found big problems with commuting. In the 80-100 minutes a day I'm not spending driving back from Boston, I can go to the local grocery market and choose something for dinner, go for a 45-minute run, attend a 90-minute meeting for the couple of volunteer groups I'm in, meet friends for a beer, read the magazines that came in the mail, do laundry, take my bike out to the beach and watch the sun set, or any number of other choices that benefit both me and other people in my community. That time with others - advancing volunteer causes, exercising in a group run, meeting people for drinks or coffee -- is the social cost he's talking about. Who leads the Scout groups? Who coaches Little League? Who volunteers as firefighters? Who uses the local library? You can't do those things easily if you're away from home from seven to seven.

The interactions are even quantified - 10 minutes commuting translates to 10% less social interaction. That certainly has a cost to the community. Of course, I used to commute by train, and occasionally you get in conversations or have commuting buddies. But it's not the norm. For people who are introverted, commuting may translate well into alone time or relaxation time, but it does mean that it's time coming out of some other choice you could be free to make.

The article reminded me to be really thankful for what is, essentially, the gift of an hour or two a day that others may not have, given the average 51-minute-each-way commute.
posted by Miko at 10:36 AM on April 13, 2007

What do your commutes cost if you figure in, say, gas, oil, maintenance and depreciation? What if you count time spent commuting as time/labor your employer gets free (at whatever your salary is)? What if you add in the health costs of sleep deprivation, sitting in traffic, etc.? Are you really as well-paid as you think you are? If you made say $10,000 a year less and lived within walking distance of work, would you really be all that deprived?

(Of course I'd rather the Office Drones live far away and commute instead of gentrifying MY neighborhood out of my price range, so maybe I should shut up.)
posted by davy at 10:40 AM on April 13, 2007

Miko: I'm a little biased because my commute is easy and nice. I can read on the BART or listen to NPR. My friend does sketches for his portfolio and another does her homework. And the walk, short as it is, is more exercise than many city dwellers get at all. Simply because you're moving doesn't mean you aren't getting any benefits.

However, I appreciate that not everyone gets those benefits. Driving in to town across the bay bridge would be a nightmare and certainly not worth it. When I lived in Bellingham and drove to Seattle for a night out, the half an hour traffic wait around Everett was excruciating and I couldn't imagine why you'd commute when the benefits were getting frustrated and having a mortgage.

I don't think it's as cut and dry as these articles make it out to be.
posted by OrangeDrink at 10:48 AM on April 13, 2007

I'm in law school, not working, but my commute is an hour to an hour and a half each way, depending on whether my fiancee needs the car. Most of the time is spend on public transportation, and the long end of my commute involves 30 minutes on a train, 45 on a bus, and 15 walking(1 mile).

It can get long, and sometimes I wish I lived closer, but I really like the life I get by living outside the city. My apartment is cheaper, bigger and I've got trees, open space and plenty of parking
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 10:49 AM on April 13, 2007

There are days when I begin to suspect that my countless hours of playing SimCity may not have adequately modeled several real-world issues.

Great article; thanks!
posted by Mayor West at 10:51 AM on April 13, 2007 [3 favorites]

My commute is 30 minutes each way if I drive. It's an hour if I ride my bike. I vastly prefer the bike, but drive on days when I oversleep and can not bend the laws of space and time steeply enough to arrive in time for a 9am conference call -- or if, for various reasons, I have to be home relatively early in the evening.

When I ride my bike to work, even in the most miserable of New England snowstorms or the most humid of Bostonian summers, I feel far more alive, much happier and a thousand times less stressed out than if I drove. No amount of NPR can correct for that.

I look forward to the scent of fresh bread wafting from the bakeries that I ride past. I love waving at children that try to race me on their training wheels bikes on the multi-use path. I savor the envious glances that the receptionist gives to my legs whenever I walk in the office. I relish the sound of birdsong that heralds the advance of spring.

On a bike, I don't have a commute. I have a one hour vacation before work begins.
posted by bl1nk at 10:52 AM on April 13, 2007 [7 favorites]

1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours each damn way, on transit in Toronto; a streetcar, then the subway, then a bus, then a short walk. So my commute, while much cheaper than driving a car, turns an eight-hour workday into 10 1/2 hours, which is a major crimp on my quality of life. Fortunately, the prospects of me being able to move to a branch of the library closer to where I live (in time) are pretty good.
posted by The Card Cheat at 10:53 AM on April 13, 2007

I live 6.5 miles from my office (D.C. to Hyattsville, MD), which I can do in about 35-40 minutes via Metro and two short walks.

In a previous job I had a pleasant 4 mile round-trip walk (with the option of the bus). I *really* miss that.
posted by ryanshepard at 10:55 AM on April 13, 2007


Last year, Midas, the muffler company, in honor of its fiftieth anniversary, gave an award for America’s longest commute to an engineer at Cisco Systems, in California, who travels three hundred and seventy-two miles—seven hours—a day, from the Sierra foothills to San Jose and back.

Good goddamn. I hope the award was a new job.
posted by The Card Cheat at 10:57 AM on April 13, 2007

oh, yeah, and aside from the kit that I needed to purchase to get my bike commuter-ready (rack + panniers ~ $180) my only costs for commuting by bike is the cost of doubling the portion of oatmeal that I eat for breakfast and an extra $6 a week for the peanut butter sandwiches that I consume before heading home.
posted by bl1nk at 10:57 AM on April 13, 2007

I live in San Francisco's Mission District and work downtown in the Financial District. Whether I walk or take the subway, my commute works out about the same: right at 30 minutes. So if the weather isn't bad, I usually walk.

Enjoyed the article. Thanks!
posted by trip and a half at 11:00 AM on April 13, 2007

I used to have zero commute. I worked off-site, at home as a contract programmer. When I got bored, I went to a coffee shop to work. That was cool.

Now I commute 20 minutes to a cube job. It's not as cool.
posted by LordSludge at 11:17 AM on April 13, 2007

My commute is similar to bl1nk's, and she (?) forgot to mention one other advantage to biking: people in cars are complete assholes. I know because I become an one as well when I drive. Biking season sees a serious drop in bonecrusher's misanthropy.
posted by bonecrusher at 11:21 AM on April 13, 2007

Old job: 45 minute (each way) commute by car, on the traffic-congested highway, from apartment in city to suburban office location. Cost: lots of gas, lots of miles on car, one expensive fender-bender accident, my mental well-being. Got to listen to NPR but hated the world.

Current job: 30-45 minute (each way) commute by train or recently by bus due to construction on the El, from apartment in city to downtown office location. Cost: $75 a month for an unlimited pass taken out of my paycheck pre-tax and automatically loaded onto my permanent card. No more NPR, but I read books and The Economist and listen to podcasts or music or just silence and sometimes gaze out the window at Lake Michigan while the bus is zooming down Lake Shore Drive (which is surprisingly lovely especially early in the morning when the sun is still low in the sky).

Despite the same amount of time spent, the difference between these two commutes and how they make me feel is almost immeasurable.
posted by misskaz at 11:24 AM on April 13, 2007

Of course, twenty minutes isn't bad at all.

And yet... ::sigh::
posted by LordSludge at 11:24 AM on April 13, 2007

I drive for an hour and fifteen minutes each morning and it is driving me nuts. I'm on the highway for most of that but I average less than15 miles per hour due to the presence of a tunnel between here and there. We're planning a major move this year to be within walking distance of my office.
posted by octothorpe at 11:26 AM on April 13, 2007

I should add that I once had a job where the commute was about five seconds, from my bedroom to my study. For a while it seemed like heaven on earth, but when you work at home you have to be pretty diciplined to avoid slipping into inefficient work habits and slovenly behaviour. Not to mention that you can't wait to get out of the house at the end of the the day, which is diametrically opposite to how your s/o (if you have one, if s/he works away from home) feels when they get home.
posted by The Card Cheat at 11:26 AM on April 13, 2007

Bicycle every day, rain, shine, snow, ice, sleet, wind. It's a pleasant 10 mile round trip, and even under the worst weather circumstances preferable to driving. After all, I'm bundled up warm and dry; never have to scrape the windshield, shovel the drive, scrape out a parking space. Anyone who does the same is doubtlessly familiar with the "Gosh, you're ka-ra-zy" bit from coworkers; I think this is generally intended in teasing fun, but I also think the fundamental expression is sincere.

Personally, I think the ones who can get themselves about by their own power and choose not to should be on the receiving end of all the "what's the matter with you?" and "are you crazy?" talk. I'm just doing the baseline of what should be considered normal.
posted by Wolfdog at 11:28 AM on April 13, 2007 [1 favorite]

My commute into San Francisco from Berkeley (BART and MUNI [bus]) takes about 1.5 hours - mainly due to the fact that I've started walking from my home to the BART station. When I drove in, it took anywhere from 50 minutes to 1.5 hours, depending upon the phases of the moon and whether or not the other drivers had remembered to take their medication.

Even though my commute is longer now, I've found that I have more time to do things I want to do. I read, I shop on either side of the commute, I visit friends in San Francisco after work, and I walk 2 miles a day. Once I slowed down and stopped worrying about how long it was taking me to "get home to my life," my quality of life increased dramatically. But then again, I'm single. If I needed to pick kids up from day-care - it would suck.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 11:30 AM on April 13, 2007

I live in Northern VA. Everything is a half hour from everywhere else.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 11:31 AM on April 13, 2007

Wolfdog, I am planning to do some more biking. I have trouble getting around this, though -- there's no shower at my job, and I am supposed to dress professionally at work. Do you carry a separate set of clothes? How do you stay presentable after a long ride in changeable weather? What about multiple destinations - things you're doing after work? I'm asking because I'm having trouble figuring out how to transition to doing this more often while still meeting my various obligations.
posted by Miko at 11:34 AM on April 13, 2007

Holy shit, Wolfdog! That's amazing. Considering where your profile says you are, that is:

posted by bonecrusher at 11:34 AM on April 13, 2007

I've been incredibly lucky the last couple years to have a 3-mile, 5 or 6 minute (by car) commute. If the weather's okay, I can walk it, which takes me about 50 minutes.
posted by LionIndex at 11:38 AM on April 13, 2007

Miko -

the sweat thing can be a problem (my solution is to try to start early before it gets warm and wear wicking clothes). My clothing solution is to put one of these in this.

I cycled in today (most of the snow is gone) and I'm wearing a neatly pressed shirt and wool trousers. I don't wear a jacket, and would probably have to leave that at work.
posted by bonecrusher at 11:41 AM on April 13, 2007

I used to have an hour each way, via bus, and the most soul-crushing part of it was knowing that the same trip would only take me a mere fifteen minutes in a car. And yet, I wasn't making enough to afford a car. *sigh*

Now I have a car and live a mere ten minutes from work. I karmically balance out the ease of this by working the evening shift and never being able to have dinner at home or hang out with friends when they get off work ;)

My dad commutes an hour and a half to work and rather than drive three hours in one day, he rents a space in a guest house and stays there four days a week and drives back home on his days off. It's pretty draining on him, but there weren't any engineering jobs in his part of Vermont. Hell, there aren't many jobs of any kind in any part of Vermont these days.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 11:44 AM on April 13, 2007

This is a really great article. It says it all, really.

I live in San Francisco and walk two blocks down Haight Street and three blocks up Ashbury to the French school where I work. Takes less than five minutes. The only bad part is the enormous hill.
posted by bukharin at 11:46 AM on April 13, 2007

I live and work in downtown Portland, so my commute is a ten minute walk. Seven if I'm in a hurry. I consider the lack of a significant commute one of the huge semi-tangible perks of my otherwise unremarkable employment situation.

A few years back I worked at a place a good mile or so from home, though still downtown, and I actually miss the compulsory walk sometimes.

For three months during one summer in college, I was living in Worcester and commuting to Providence, which is a straight shot of maybe 45 miles. But I didn't have a car (and still don't), and so I had to arrange public transit—and there was no reasonable solution between the two towns at the time. I ended up using a mix of MBTA, Peter Pan commuter lines, and the Providence local bus system, through South Station in Boston as a hub. I spent about three hours each way, all told, and it was a miserable few months for the way that it ate up my leisure time; then again, I got a tremendous amount of reading done to and from (and a lot of laptop X-com when I burnt out on reading); mass transit let me at least reclaim some mental independence from the commute.

Everybody told me to just get a car, but the actual monetary cost of that vs. the awful transit ordeal would have eaten a big chunk of the college money I was making from the job.
posted by cortex at 11:48 AM on April 13, 2007

I pay through the nose in rent, so that I can live close enough to my job to commute by bike in about 15 minutes or so.

My wife and I had a long talk about it, and we both decided that the extra $1000 per month is worth the 40 hours of commute time we save.

I think a lot of people are making that calculation these days, which is why city real estate prices are so ridiculous across the board.
posted by xthlc at 11:51 AM on April 13, 2007

In metro Detroit, and most of Michigan, I'd suspect, when you speak of commutes, you speak of driving. We don't have great bus service, no subways and no rail service other than Amtrak. I used to work at a company in Detroit with a guy who lived somewhere outside of Grand Rapids, which meant he had a three hour one-way commute if weather and traffic conditions were optimal. If he wanted to spend most of his time behind the wheel it was no business of mine, but it truly irked me on occasions when, say, it started to snow heavily, and he'd plead his case to the boss: "I have to leave early - I've got a three hour drive...." Just because someone chooses to work a zillion miles from home shouldn't entitle them to special work hours, IMHO.
posted by Oriole Adams at 11:56 AM on April 13, 2007

I have what many would consider a soul-crushing commute. Two hours each way -- eastern Contra Costa County (home) to Berkeley (work). One hour on the bus, half hour on BART, another half-hour (roughly) walking to and from stations or park-and-rides.

I don't drive. Driving Highway 4 any day of the week is a soul-crushing experience, and I don't personally understand how anyone could do it for any length of time without going batshit crazy. The difference is that I ride. I have other things to do as I ride -- I read, I sleep, I listen to my iPod. I look out the window at the rolling hills dotted by occasional cows or horses. I don't love the commute, and I hope that it's not a long-term experience (I've been doing it now for close to a year), but it's the price I pay for living in the Bay Area.

It interests me that The Light Fantastic's commute -- for roughly two-fifths of the distance -- is not that much shorter than mine is. That's about how long I guessed a Berkeley-to-SF commute would take, depending on what part of SF you're commuting to and how much of that commute depends of MUNI, which from what I hear is slipping back into the nightmare unreliability of old.
posted by blucevalo at 11:56 AM on April 13, 2007

Miko, I do carry clothes with me, but I have enough space in the office I can keep some things, like neckties, suit jacket, and dress shoes, and a hairbrush permanently installed there. My ride isn't long enough for me to get really sweaty, and weather-related gunk only gets as far as the outwear so it's never been much of a problem. In a pinch, when it's been needed, a quick sponge bath will get me by - that's what I do if I go for a hard ride during the middle of the day when it's very hot out.

Evening obligations are really the same story. It's a small town (out there in central Greenland) so I just use my office to get changed, store my things, or whatever; it's handy for anywhere.

If you want to be super-dolled-up, dressed-to-the-nines, impeccable all the time then I reckon that's tough, but if you set your sights just a tiny bit lower it ought to be entirely doable. The forums at bicycling.com will be a source of more and varied advice.

The main thing is just to start doing it and you'll work out the details soon enough.
posted by Wolfdog at 12:11 PM on April 13, 2007

This Monday I start my first W-2 job in 20 years on the opposite side of Columbus. I calculated my commute will be roughly an hour a day. By Friday I'll be tired and/or in downtown Chicago.
posted by hal9k at 12:14 PM on April 13, 2007

We moved to cut down a 55 minute/1.5 hr commute (mine/my partners) down to 25 or 45 minute for me and a 55 minute for him. Our driving times are down 90%.

It's 25 minutes when I take the free shuttle my workplace provides, and 45 minutes when I walk home, which is most days I work. He drives about 7 minutes to the train station (which I hate, and which he isn't doing this week because he's not good at parking) and then takes a 45 minute train ride out to the office he's been 'outsourced' to. His home office is a 10 minute walk from our new place.

I finally bought an MP3 player. I get to look at the shops and the street vendors and hell, I can stop in at any of a handful of museums on my way home. I love my new walk.
posted by cobaltnine at 12:19 PM on April 13, 2007


Like some other folks here, during cold weather I usually just wear an outer waterproof layer to keep the rain and salt off, with my work clothes underneath. I keep more delicate attire (polished shoes, etc) in my office.

At my current job there's actually a small gym and showers in the building, so when it gets hot I just wear shorts and a jersey, pack my work clothes in my bag, and shower once I get to work. When I lived in Atlanta (ugh), I joined a gym that was near my office and would shower there.
posted by xthlc at 12:26 PM on April 13, 2007

i feel compelled to make the primitivist argument that....
posted by andywolf at 12:34 PM on April 13, 2007

My commute now is down two flights of stairs, but a few years ago I was commuting from Louisville to Lexington KY. It was exactly 70 miles each way from door to door. I wasn't in much heavy traffic, maybe a mile or two near my house, and it was right about one hour. At the time it didn't bother me, but I would wake up in the middle of the night with this realization that I was working in a completely different city and that was just insane. It was a beautiful drive through horse country, but still a long time to spend in the car.

On the other end of things, Last year I worked at Churchill Downs. During racing season, the drive to the track from my house was about 10-12 minutes or so. However, I had to park so far from my department that the walk from the car to my office was at least 15 minutes. That was an odd experience.
posted by Mcable at 12:41 PM on April 13, 2007

I bicycle the 3.5 miles to work about 90% of the time. Occasionally I'll get a ride in then walk home and sometimes I have need to borrow the roommate's car. The ride takes me between 20-30 minutes depending on stop lights. I ride no matter how cold and rainy it is and I love ever second of it. Few things make me as happy as my rides to/from work. How many people can say that about their commute?

Like Wolfdog said, the crazies are those folks scraping frost off their windshields and cursing at traffic.
posted by J-Garr at 12:52 PM on April 13, 2007


I think the similarity in our commute times is due in large part to the fact that I work pretty deep into San Francisco - Muni is still more reliable than AC-Transit (hate!), but time consuming nontheless. That, and I walk pretty slow. BART also moves pretty quickly out where you are, as I recall.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 1:16 PM on April 13, 2007

Mcable: I know what you mean - I work at an airport where I have to park remotely. In fact, my home is closer to the airport than where I park. Sadly, walking from home is rarely an option given no sidewalks, mud, security, etc.

My typical commute is: 4 minutes from home to parking lot, 15-20 minutes to the terminal, then another 10 minutes' walk to my office from there.
posted by gazole at 1:26 PM on April 13, 2007

I've never commuted by car. I rode my bicycle to work every day for about six years, which was 24 or 30 miles roundtrip, depending on the season and the way I chose to go. These days I'm back in school and live down the street from where I have to be each day...

I couldn't imagine sitting in a car to go sit in a cube and stare at a monitor. I think I'd have committed hara-kiri long since.
posted by killdevil at 1:29 PM on April 13, 2007

Good lord, I'm saving that 7-page tome for when I'm stuck in traffic this evening...

...on my 12-mile commute, which I sometimes bicycle, though it's hard b/c my work has no shower facilities.

I don't really mind commuting, with the exception of NPR pledge week.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 1:30 PM on April 13, 2007

Miko -- currently, I am blessed with an office that has shower and locker facilities, but prior to this, I worked for a bank that required a shirt and tie everyday and didn't have shower facilities.

In that case, like many others, I typically packed my office clothes in a waterproof messenger bag, left a pair of shoes and towel at my desk; then, upon arriving, did a quick cleanup with baby-wipes in the bathroom, dried off with the towel and changed into office clothes.

With the bank job, my commute was 10 miles round trip, and was the instigator for my taking up bike commuting, as, even with the added time for the baby-wipes and changing clothes, riding a bike was the fastest method for getting to work. Public transit took an average of 45 minutes from door to desk. Driving was longer because the only affordable all-day parking lot was a 20 minute walk from the office. The bike was, on average, 30 minutes from door to desk.

And, besides, riding through downtown Boston in the midst of the Big Dig was fun in an everyday action hero sort of way.
posted by bl1nk at 1:55 PM on April 13, 2007

45 minute commute door-to-door; walk about a half mile to the subway, then 30 mins on the train; one transfer and two blocks later, i'm at work. I find it pretty relaxing, actually. I love the opportunity to read and listen to music.

just started biking part of it, though. I'd like to work my way up to biking the whole distance. I'd miss the reading/music but could benefit from the exercise.
posted by dubold at 2:03 PM on April 13, 2007

I work from home. My commute (down a flight of stairs) sucks. I am planning to move to a bungalow to improve my work life balance.
posted by rhymer at 2:18 PM on April 13, 2007 [2 favorites]

Actually, with the Eurostar, it is now quite possible (if slightly pointless and expensive) to live in Paris or Brussels and work in London - or vice versa. It's about two hours each way.
posted by rhymer at 2:21 PM on April 13, 2007

My old commute was 45 minutes to an hour from San Francisco to Berkeley, depending on how long I had to wait for the Muni express bus and BART. It was pretty painless, and it was nice having some quiet time to read the paper or play solitaire. My new commute's a 15-minute walk, which is really nice. It's about 5-10 minutes if I take the bus, which is almost too quick.
posted by kirkaracha at 2:50 PM on April 13, 2007

Wow. Part of the reason I left a job in the past was because I didn't like the 17 mile commute.

(My present job is about 5 miles away. I do a combination of walking and taking the bus.)
posted by Lucinda at 3:15 PM on April 13, 2007

cortex said: I live and work in downtown Portland, so my commute is a ten minute walk.

word. my favorite commute was living in northwest and working near PSU. 15 minute bus ride or 30 minute walk. Now I live off Hawthorne but work in Wilsonville, so it's 35-45 minutes one way. I thought long and hard about whether I could deal with this commute (because i contracted in Wilsonville before and the commute killed my soul), but signed up because this is a dream job, w/ a gym, soccer three times a week, and daycare center onsite; I feel like that outweighs the emotional costs of the commute.

I really found the work/shop/live triangle concept interesting. One of the things I love about Portland is that you can pretty much live most anywhere in the city and at least two of those points are going to be close together. at the end of the article, the descriptions of Atlanta commutes depressed me so much. I'll have to ask my Atlanta-dwelling friend what his is like.
posted by acid freaking on the kitty at 3:42 PM on April 13, 2007

I think the similarity in our commute times is due in large part to the fact that I work pretty deep into San Francisco

The Light Fantastic -- I figured that was probably the case. I remember my commutes on MUNI from the Sunset to other parts of SF taking forever.

I still prefer AC Transit to MUNI, but that's a negligible preference ..... both are pretty crappy (IMO).
posted by blucevalo at 4:11 PM on April 13, 2007

35 miles/45 minutes one-way to the office when I leave @ 6am on I24IR (the Interstate 24 International Raceway) into Nashville every morning. Bumper to bumper traffic doing 75mph until (as usual) one car pulled over to the shoulder brings all 4 lanes to a screeching halt. It's usually only 3 or 4 times a week that someone tries to kill me on my motorcycle.
posted by rhythim at 4:20 PM on April 13, 2007

7 minutes by car, maybe 15 minutes by bike. That's if I don't stop for coffee. I don't make as much as I would in Portland, but the quality of life here is ass-kicking. Not that I don't make half-assed plans to move to PDX every year. I love that town.
posted by everichon at 4:58 PM on April 13, 2007

I get the feeling that many of the people commenting on this thread are 20-somethings with no kids.

On one hand, there are people who say there is nothing wrong with the commute - it gives them time to study or whatever.

Then there are other people who live in the city in order to cut down their commute time.

I would have to say that living in the city is not an option for middle class people with children. There are no schools, there is no green space, there are few places for children to play. So families are forced to move to suburbs or exurbs.

But time spent commuting means less time spent with children, exercising, all that stuff.

There are really no other options for families in North America.
posted by KokuRyu at 5:27 PM on April 13, 2007

45 minutes, but I get to go over the Manhattan Bridge.

Curled up in the corner seat of the Q train, looking at the Statue of Liberty and the Brooklyn Bridge. It's what gets me through the day.
posted by nasreddin at 5:54 PM on April 13, 2007

The Seattle motorcycle commute is great. Even in the rain.
posted by YoBananaBoy at 6:10 PM on April 13, 2007

My Atlanta suburb-to-suburb commute (I work very near the Perimeter Center area cited in the article) is 27 miles each way. If I have to be in for a 10 AM start (my normal time) my trip will take 45 minutes. For an 9 AM start, though (twice a week, these days) my commute time doubles. I typically end up scheduling conference calls for early in the morning, so that I can give the appearance of starting work at 8AM - I just dial into the concalls from the car.
posted by deadmessenger at 6:39 PM on April 13, 2007

Personally, I think writer John Cheever had the best commute. He put on a suit, kissed his wife goodbye, and then walked down the stairs to his basement, where he hung his suit on a hanger and wrote all day in his underwear.

And you thought bicyclists were crazy.
posted by ed at 7:40 PM on April 13, 2007

I would have to say that living in the city is not an option for middle class people with children.

Huh. I'd better let all of the middle class families in my neighborhood with kids (including my upstairs neighbors!) know about this. They must not have received the memo. Boy, will they be grateful!
posted by grapefruitmoon at 7:51 PM on April 13, 2007 [1 favorite]

My commute: 19-24 minutes (depending on how many Canada geese are crossing the road at any given time) along a road that runs parallel to the Missouri River. Peaceful. Tranquil. Relaxing.
posted by davidmsc at 8:05 PM on April 13, 2007

My current commute is about 25 minutes each way (14 miles). It's the best commute I've ever had.

My previous commute was about 1.5 hours each way (30 miles). This included a drive to the train station, a 45 minutes train ride, and then a 1.5 mile walk.

Before that, I did a ridiculous commute from Baltimore to Arlington, VA. That included a bus trip, commuter rail, metro, and a 4-5 block walk. That was about 2 hours plus each way and like 50 miles.

My first job out of college was about 40 minutes (37 miles). That was straight driving.
posted by marcusb at 8:30 PM on April 13, 2007

It will be interesting to see what will happen to commutes and commuters when cars start to drive themselves over the next 10-20 years.

Personally I'd love a commute which was like public transport where I could stare out the window and read but had the flexibility of a car.

Also, I'd be happy to rent my car out during the day while at work so it could be used by others. And sharing on the way home would be fine if the car would return to me.

For the record 17 to 30 minutes each way depending on traffic by car, average about 25, an hour by bus or 50 minutes each way by bike. Usually it's bike 3 days a week and car for 2.

And in 2020 it will be ride one way, car drives me home the other ;-)
posted by sien at 9:32 PM on April 13, 2007

About 5 seconds from my bed to my office. And about 15 minutes to walk to the university where I teach.
Yes, life is good.
posted by signal at 9:39 PM on April 13, 2007

I take the bus one way (25 minutes) and walk the other (3 miles, 55 minutes). I walk home, and it is the perfect decompression. I've been doing it for 10 years and I'm incredibly lucky for my physical proximity to work.

Bonus: I pick up my 6 yr old 3 times a week, 1/2 way between work and home. Our walks home are truly a treasure. Usually it's impossible to get a 6 yr old to talk ("How was school today?", "Good"). Walking is the perfect conversational lubricant. The first time he walked home with me he was so happy he skipped the entire way.

Double bonus: the bus driver and I have become good friends. That 25 minute ride is way too short now.
posted by e40 at 9:39 PM on April 13, 2007 [1 favorite]

I have an 11 minute commute each way from Silverlake into Hollywood. Of course the 10 or more hour days cut into my free time.

Unfortunately the office is about to move to Santa Monica, so the 11 minutes each way is about to turn into more like 50 or 60....
posted by MythMaker at 10:48 PM on April 13, 2007

My 3.5 mile motorcycle commute is all good. Including parking ($2.25/day, across the street from my office) and buying coffee, it's way less than 30 minutes from home to cube. I spend about $7 every other week on gas.
posted by bendy at 10:50 PM on April 13, 2007

Six blocks, nine if I drop my daughter off at pre-school first.
posted by strangeleftydoublethink at 10:55 PM on April 13, 2007

My bed is on one side of the room, my office is on the other.
posted by dydecker at 11:12 PM on April 13, 2007

which sounds good, but there is something to be said for zoning and commuting from one zone to another. Here in my "home office" in the centre of Barcelona, this whole "residential" neighbourhood has to put up with a factory bandsawing all day every weekday from 9-5.
posted by dydecker at 11:24 PM on April 13, 2007

Driving = 25 minutes or 30 minutes.
Public transportation = 45(+) minutes.
This is from Denver to the DTC.

I once had a walking commute in downtown Bend, Oregon from my apartment, down 2 flights of stairs, 1/4 block walk, diagonally cross street, cross parking lot, up short staircase, cross hall to office = 4 minutes. glorious.
posted by fieldtrip at 11:41 PM on April 13, 2007

I'm retired. My partner drives 13 minutes to work, unless he goes a little early or comes home early, then it's longer due to traffic. Before this, he had a 5 minute walk.

The best commute I ever had was Great Neck to NYC. Perfect! No Jamaica, few delays, enough of a ride to relax. The worst was Long Beach CA to downtown LA, driving (before the rail). Second worst was Northport, Long Island to Manhattan. Too long, too many delays. But, when the trains were messed up, we usually opted for dinner in the city.

The 8-hour-day (which for many of us really means 10 or more) is artificial and unhealthy. Add a stressful commute and your giving your life away for the meager pay.
posted by Goofyy at 1:36 AM on April 14, 2007

25 minutes of tyre-howling hilly, windy roads :)

Let's just ignore the 20 minutes of bumbling traffic that comes right after. At least it gives the turbo time to cool off a bit before I pull into the work parking lot...
posted by polyglot at 5:05 AM on April 14, 2007

depends on what i'm doing that day, but usually it's approximately 10 seconds. if i've gotta go downtown, it's 18 min., mostly downhill, by bike, the same by bus, or around 10 minutes by car if you count finding parking.

I would have to say that living in the city is not an option for middle class people with children. There are no schools, there is no green space, there are few places for children to play. So families are forced to move to suburbs or exurbs.

There are really no other options for families in North America.

LOLZ. dude. this is so untrue. really.
posted by RedEmma at 4:42 PM on April 14, 2007

2 hours and 15 minutes each way -dependent on making all of the correct connections- 15 minute walk/path train/ Jersey Transit train/ shuttle van (reverse for the trip home). Yes, it's killing me but I've cut back to working a three day week so it's still (just barely) tolerable. It'll be a year in about 2 months and that may well be a year two long. Good articles, thanks.
posted by stagewhisper at 10:53 PM on April 14, 2007

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