Skip to main content

On Extreme Commutes

Every time I hear a story like this one I feel like the piece is trying to evoke sympathy from the reader (or in this case, the listener).

I'm sorry, but I just can't feel bad for people who make these ridiculous commutes. I agree that they are probably painful and awful and incredibly unpleasant, but at some point the person doing it needs to step back and simply decide if it really makes sense.

Nick Paumgarten wrote a great piece about two and a half years ago in the New Yorker on this topic. Penelope Trunk gives a nice slap in the face to the very idea that it's a good idea. I can buy into the argument that people make these commutes because they are very bad at calculating costs and benefits, especially when abstract value is involved. The other day, for instance, I asked a simple question to some very smart guys: if you commute 30 minutes to work each day, how many work weeks would you spend commuting per year? Neither had any idea off the top of his head (a pocket calculator will tell you the answer is about 6.5 forty-hour work-weeks).

I also think the problem is self-perpetuating. In my mind, a 60 minute per day round trip commute by car is very long and probably very far; but you'll hear other people say that it's actually very short. Nobody is going to be shocked if you commute 2 hours per day by car. When society reinforces the idea that this behavior is normal and acceptable, it stops being extreme and starts becoming mainstream. When people think about where to live and where to work, they probably discount the cost of the commute, because if everyone else is making long commutes, there must be some awesome value to it, right?

Comments

Steven said…
It's not that people discount the cost of the commute, it's that the cost/length of a commute is just one of many factors people look at when choosing where to live. Life is a series of compromises and commute length is one of those compromises.

Perhaps you live with a working S/O and this represents a compromise between each others jobs. Perhaps you were laid off and your new job changes your 20 minute commute to a 60 minute commute.

Most people don't move when they change jobs, especially if they own their home or have kids in the local schools that they don't want to uproot.

So, Rob, what are you going to do when the day comes (and it almost certainly will) when that great job with the 10 minute commute from your condo goes away and the only job you can find involves a 30 minute commute? Are you going to sell your condo (if you can) and move? And hope that a year or two down the road the same thing doesn't happen again? Or are you going to find a way to make that 30 minute commute?

Popular posts from this blog

In Praise of Southwest's 'C' Boarding Group

A few weeks ago I saw a tweet from someone complaining that their Southwest Airlines boarding pass had been assigned A20 (meaning they would be at least one of the first twenty passengers to board the plane). Apparently this person though they should have been assigned a higher number, less their flight experience be considerably spoiled.

Despite the complaints, Southwest has resisted demands to assign seats on its flights, a decision which I personally applaud. I'll admit that I was skeptical when they rolled out the newest boarding procedure, assigning both boarding groups and a line number; but in hindsight it seems like one of the best operational decisions they've ever made. If nothing else, it effectively eliminated the infamous "cattle call" whereby fliers were getting to airports hours in advance and sitting in line on the floor as if they were waiting for the midnight showing of the new Star Wars movie.

When I was an intern at Southwest Airlines last winter, I…

So You Want to be a Southwest Airlines Intern?

My personal website must have pretty decent SEO - because in the past year, I've received about two dozen emails from aspiring Southwest Airlines interns looking to draw on my experience in search of their own dream internship. In the past two weeks alone a few new emails have already started rolling in...

(from flickr user San Diego Shooter)

If you've found your way here, you might be hoping for the silver bullet; a secret tip that will propel you above the competition. Unfortunately, I do not know any inside secrets. I can only share my experience as an internship candidate about two years ago and, rather than responding individually to future emails I anticipate to receive, I hope that potential interns will find the information posted here valuable.

Understand: Southwest Airlines is a very unique company. The corporate culture at Southwest is truly unlike that of nearly every other company. But you probably already knew that, since it now seems mandatory for every management,…

Commuting Meets Technology

I'm finally out of the dark ages. I got an Android smartphone over the weekend and have since been in the process of exploring the Android apps market.  One thing I've immediately noticed is the really wide range of usefulness in the apps. For example, the WeatherBug app is fantastic. It automatically determines your location and gives you exact conditions for that location. On the other end of the spectrum, Google's Goggles app is supposed to be a type of 'visual search' where you snap of photo of something and Google searches for it. In each of my attempts to use it, the app hasn't returned any search results. I even took a photo of a bottle of Pepsi (figuring it as a common houseful item) and got nothing.

Somewhere in the middle is this app called Waze. Have a look at their 'guided tour':



Some people might look at it and comment on the amazing evolution of technology or on the incredible value of social networks. To me, Waze says something important ab…