Do you have an open mind with your work commute?

Washington Post graphicI’ve been reevaluating my work commute and transit habits for several months. I’ve been looking for more ways to incorporate riding the bus and biking as an alternative to driving my car.

I’m close to dropping my parking deck in downtown Richmond to save $45 monthly and instead bike for free or put that money to use in $3 round-trip for the GRTC bus route or the occasional $5-$7 parking deck fee near my office.

But it isn’t without complication. It was my family’s choice to live nine miles from my office and two miles from the nearest bus stop — if we really wanted better commutes we’d have to move. Our children’s schools are the main driver for where we chose to live.

In all, my solo driving commute isn’t that bad, but I’d rather spend it doing something more fun (relaxing on the bus) or productive (biking = exercise). Seriously, riding the bus offers a great time to clear email, read, play a game or just chill. As for biking, that is usually my best time of the day to get my heart rate up and the early it really sets me up for a day full of energy.

Driving and sitting in cars is a waste of time. The Washington Post recently published an article on “The astonishing human potential wasted on commutes.”

It now takes the average worker 26 minutes to travel to work, according the the U.S. Census Bureau. That’s the longest it’s been since the Census began tracking this data in 1980. Back then the typical commute was only 21.7 minutes. The average American commute has gotten nearly 20 percent longer since then. According to the Census, there were a little over 139 million workers commuting in 2014. At an average of 26 minutes each way to work, five days a week, 50 weeks a year, that works out to something like a total of 1.8 trillion minutes Americans spent commuting in 2014.

My 9-mile car commute is usually about 26 minutes or more (compared to about 35-40 minutes by bike and bus). Since I report to work at 7:30 a.m. and leave at 3:30 p.m., outside of peak rush hour traffic, my time in the car is usually a little shorter than others. I also stay off interstates and choose to take slower neighborhood routes. I like the scenery better and appreciate having to drive slower. Try it sometime.

I don’t think I could handle much more time in a car. Double my drive time and I’d probably get depressed. More from the Washington Post:

Of course, not all of us have 26-minute commutes. Roughly a quarter of American commutes are less than 15 minutes one way. On the other hand, nearly 17 percent of us have commutes that are 45 minutes or longer. And the prevalence of these long commutes — and of really, really long commutes — is growing.

These 90-minute-one-way workers — 3.6 million of them — spend a huge chunk of their lives simply going to and from work. Consider this: If your commute is the typical 26 minutes each direction, that works out to a total of nine full days a year spent traveling to work and back. That’s more than you’d like, probably, but it’s not a huge number.

It is fun to think about a commute as an opportunity to have fun. My current job has a shower and I can dress more casually, which is fortunate. I’m also fortunate that I’m able-bodied and fit enough to bike and walk quickly. I’ve even kayaked to work down the James River a couple of times. Snow and cold weather didn’t stop my bike commuting either. I biked to work in 10 degrees and with the help from a GRTC bus and new mountain bike tires, I biked during a snow storm too, which was definitely fun.

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