If you live outside of the United States, you probably think you have a long commute. Even if you live in the United States, unless you live in New York, Chicago, Atlanta or Los Angeles, you probably think you have a long commute. If you live in Washington, DC, you know you have a long commute. A couple of extra minutes? On a good day, at 3 AM. On a normal day, anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes above normal and on a bad day. Well, pack a lunch.
Today was a bad day. Rain always complicates the commute. As does sunshine, snow, and cell phones. But today was a trifecta of bad weather, accidents, and emergency construction. People coming north on I-95 were advised to pack their patience and a snack. Estimated commute times were upwards of 90 minutes along a ten mile stretch of the highway.
I have been tracking my commute since the last week of August. I have a 15 mile commute, a straight shot up Route 28. About a third of the commute is local in that there are stop lights, the other two-thirds are highway in that there are overpasses and flyways to keep the traffic moving. According to Google, the trip should take 20 minutes. According to my non-rush hour driving, it takes 15 minutes since the trip north of I-66 is officially 55 miles an hour. Over the course of the last 10 weeks, my average commute time has been 40 minutes, or more than double. Most days are in the 35-45 minute range and the high point has been 75 minutes. I have only made the commute in 15 minutes once. And that was when I was on the road at 5:00 AM. And I will admit I have a very short, simple commute.
As the Presidential candidates (and even some of our local political hacks) go after each other over such things as Immigration or jobs, one question I have for all of them is what are you doing to reduce the time spent wasted commuting?
Now, before you trot out the normal stalking horses, like move closer to work or use public transit I will remind you that moving, especially moving a household, is not a trivial exercise. If you are lucky enough to be able and pick up an move without a moment’s thought or issue, good for you, but you are in the minority. Moving a household is a big deal. Even someone like me who moved every year for more than 10 years finds moving to be a pain. Public transit is an even bigger joke. In DC, public transit means moving people to DC. Period. And while I have used public transit when I worked in DC, where I work now does not have a viable public transit option, and that is assuming there was money in the coffers to support a public transit solution.
You might say I could work from home, and you would be right, if working from home was an option offered to me by my company. In fact, in these days of increased austerity, you would think that companies would be encouraging people to work from home. In fact, the opposite is happening as people are desperate to prove that they are valuable and useful and that mean presenting themselves to the office every day and ensuring the face time is achieved. Since people are not clamouring for the ability to work from home, companies are not making it an option.
So the roads are congested and there we all sit, twice a day, with little option. And they wonder why people are texting when they drive? Is it any real surprise?