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Explaining Long Commutes

You know how they say you should never buy a house if you haven't been there at night? The same logic should be applied to commuters. To some extent it is; but there's often a missing element.

(from Flickr user ohad*)

People freely choose to make long commutes because it never seems that bad at first, especially when people are trying to convince themselves that it really isn't that bad. But any commute, and it doesn't matter if it's alone in a car, on a bus, a train, bicycle, or whatever... over time, it becomes tedious, boring and repetative. There are traffic problems, weather problems, mechanical problems; and the longer the commute, the more these problems are likely to ruin a person's day. There eventually become many days when people wish they could be instantly transported home at the end of the day.

The decision of whether to make a commute is always made in the time before the commute becomes a regular chore, when it never seems that bad no matter how bad it really is. Once the decision is made, reversing it is extremely difficult; and people don't, they just make the new long commute the new default, and the benchmark against which all future commutes are then measured.

Comments

Matt' said…
Excellent point.

One other thing to consider is the changing of conditions. For instance, if Metro gets its way, come September 30, my bus ride is going to increase by 15 minutes.

Not because I'm moving, but because Metro is making my bus route longer to compensate for a different one, which they are cutting.

Well, actually to be more precise, they are eliminating the direct route and forcing me to change to the indirect route, which they are making even more indirect.

This is why all service changes should be advised 10 years in advance. It would keep us from getting into these situations.

The practical outcome will be for me to switch to bike on any day when it does not rain or snow.
Lis said…
Difficult commutes are miserable and stressful. The worst is when you have to commute to your commute.

I used to take a free shuttle to the metro. It was great that it was free but it was unreliable and had limited hours. If I was sick and had to leave work early it wasn't an option.

Living within walking distance to a metro has completely spoiled me and I think it will be very difficult to move further out someday.
Dave said…
I was worried that this would be the case after I decided to live in DC and commute to College Park, MD (about 45 minutes to an hour on the metro and 30-45 minutes by bike). However, on the advice of friends who had similar living situations (and some who had tried living in College Park before deciding to move to the city) I went for it.

My experience was almost the opposite of what you describe: at first it was arduous to ride that much every day, and walking 20 minutes to the metro station seemed ridiculous. But as I got used to it, I really began to appreciate that time in my day, especially once I started riding more regularly.

That's not even considering how much better overall quality of life in DC is. Being able to walk to the grocery store and get pretty much anywhere I might want to go on public transportation is incredibly liberating, and I love the vibrancy of a dense urban neighborhood.

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