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Time to Telework
Commuting Costs Add Up

The average American commuter travels 25.4 minutes to and from work, adding up to nearly an hour a day. According to the Census Bureau, more than half a million Americans have “megacommutes” of at least 50 miles and 90 minutes each way. A commuter in North Carolina had one such megacommute, driving 2.5 hours each way to and from work. She crunched the numbers, and told Reuters that after 4 years, she had racked up a $43,000 gasoline bill.

But that’s just the dollar amount this odious daily chore costs you. Your pocketbook isn’t the only thing it’s hurting, Reuters reports:

[T]he Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, which surveyed Americans about daily commutes and their effects, discovered a virtual horror show. They found the longer the commute, the higher the levels of one’s obesity, cholesterol, pain, fatigue and anxiety.

These are real, physical costs. Commuting has been linked to heart disease, as well as higher incidences of asthma and even cancer in young children. And let’s not forget what it can do to your mental health. There’s the opportunity cost of being stuck in traffic to consider as well.

Worse, as Reuters notes, these costs are not evenly distributed across our country’s population—they hit the poor hardest:

[T]he costs of commuting disproportionately hit those with modest incomes. For the working poor, commuting gobbles up roughly 6 percent of income – double the percentage of those bringing home higher salaries, says Robert Puentes, a senior fellow at the Metropolitan Policy Program for the Washington, D.C.-based Brookings Institution.

For the working poor who drive alone – instead of in carpools, for instance – that percentage rises to 8 percent to 9 percent of income.

Telework can solve all of these problems, and make you more productive to boot. The changes the coming information economy will bring won’t just affect what we’re doing, but also how we do it. And that’s good news for American commuters.

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  • Reticulator

    I love how writers and journalists just sort of assume that telework would work just as well in other lines of business as in their own.

    • Ghosts of Benghazi

      Telecommuting requires enormous self discipline which is not present in most people……..

  • Andrew Allison

    There’s a rather large fly in the ointment: those with modest incomes are, by-and-large, not doing work which is amenable to being done remotely. There’s a far more practical approach: I read several years ago of a study done in, as I recall, Seattle which looked at moving people in interchangeable jobs (retail, banking, etc.) to the location closest to their home. The result was an astonishing 40% reduction in commute miles driven! The question is how to incent employers to address the issue. The environmental kudos, and improved employee moral and performance might be enough to get the ball rolling. Starbucks, where are you?

  • lukelea

    Money spent by families on personal transportation is, for the most part, an overhead cost of earning a living. Yet it is counted as part of their standard of living in national statistics.

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