The Real Cost of Commuting by CarIn a recent interview with NPR, National Geographic Fellow and author Dan Buettner put a dollar sign to the amount long commutes affect our happiness.
“When you look at Americans' day-to-day activity ... the top two things we hate the most on a day-to-day basis is, No. 1: housework and No. 2: the daily commute in our cars. In fact, if you can cut an hourlong commute each way out of your life, it's the equivalent of making up an extra $40,000 a year if you're at the $50- to $60,000 level. Huge.”Yep, according to Buettner, ditching an hour long car commute could make you just as happy as getting an extra 40k per year.
Time and Money Wasted CommutingWhat is so terrible about car commuting that avoiding it is worth a 75% pay increase? First of all, car commuting itself is expensive. AAA estimates that the average cost of driving one mile in the US is around 59¢ per mile. Let’s say you have a 15-mile drive to work each day. Driving to and from work adds up to $17.70 each day, $354 per month, and around $4,248 per year. That’s a huge amount of money to be spending on a commute, and it doesn’t even include parking and other incidental car costs. What’s more, long car commutes eat into your time incredibly fast. That 15-mile commute, for example, probably takes 35 minutes in rush hour traffic. 70 minutes a day adds up to almost 5 hours and 50 minutes a week. You’re already wasting half a work day sitting in traffic! Over the course of a year, that means you’re spending 36 full work days sitting in your car. You’ve spent more time in traffic than you spend at the office in a month. Think of all you could do with a month of extra time!
Driving Health: the PrognosisIt’s not just wasting time and money that contributes to commute unhappiness. Studies show that driving a car for long periods of time can also be seriously detrimental to physical and mental health. A 2010 Gallup poll associates long commutes with everything from increased back and neck pain to higher blood pressure to increased negative emotions. Workers with long commutes are more likely to be obese and stressed. They’re also more likely to exercise less, to spend less time preparing healthy food, and to sleep poorly. This is more than just the result of reduced free time. Long work days alone aren’t correlated with the same health and stress problems; it’s the daily slog in a car that seems to sap our ability to lead healthy, happy lives. According to Joseph Stromberg, a writer for Vox.com,
“A recent British study...found that commuters who take any form of transportation besides driving solo had 1 to 2 percent less body fat, on average — and a lower chance of being obese — even when (non-commuting) exercise, age, and other health factors were taken into account.”Stromberg also found a Canadian study that indicated commuters who travel outdoors or via public transportation are overall more satisfied with their commutes.
A Solution for Better CommutingIf sitting in the car is making us unhealthy and unhappy, how do we fix the problem? There are a few solutions. The first is, simply, to move closer to work. That’s a nice idea, but an impossible reality for many of us. If you’re not able to relocate, though, you can still reduce the toll your commute takes.
Get Out of Your Car!If you have the ability to travel by public transit, do! Even if it adds a few minutes to your commute, hopping on a train or bus keeps your mind and body active and your spirits up. If you don’t live next to a transportation hub, URB-E is here to help! We designed the URB-E to solve the first mile/last mile problem of commuting. It’s lightweight and compact enough to take on trains and buses, and it travels fast enough to get you to and from transportation hubs without wasting time. Plus, URB-E is downright fun to ride! Improving your commuting health can be as simple as finding a way to enjoy your commute. Take it from Norbert, an URB-E rider in Southern California,
“Finding fun new routes keeps me in touch with my neighborhood and surroundings, in complete contrast to the boring, half asleep drive to work that used to be my commute. Taking the road rage element out of the equation is an added bonus.”