To people outside the US, it seems like everything is bigger over there. Big cars, big houses, big meals in restaurants... Big commutes too. Not just "kind of big", but "extreme".
Take Zack Guettinger, for example. He wakes up at 3:45 in the morning five times a week, jumps in his car and commutes 200 miles (322 kilometers) to get to his job. He spends about 100 hours per month just getting to work, that's 48 whole days per year! His 3 years old car has 186,000 miles (300,000 kilometers) on it, and he spends $500-600 on gas each month (he'd probably burn less gas if he removed that rack from his roof, making his car more aerodynamic...).On one hand, it is touching that he's making big personal sacrifices for his family (that's the reason he gives). But on the other, maybe his wife and children would prefer to see him more often, and we're sure all that driving and lack of sleep can't be good for his health.
Mr. Guettinger is just an example of a whole class of US citizens: According to census information, "2 percent of the American work force is made up of extreme commuters, which means they spend more than 90 minutes driving each way to their job."
Solutions to Reduce Commutes
What are some solutions, both to help these poor road zombies and to make their lives less energy-intensive and less polluting? Not to mention make the roads safer by reducing the number of sleepy and bored extreme commuters.
Smarter urban planning and cities would be a good start. Instead of concentrating jobs all in the same area and surrounding it with endless suburban sprawl, trying to spread jobs around and allow people to live closer to them would be a good start. The approach has downsides, but there can be mitigated too.
Increasing opportunities for telecommuting, when possible, would also reduce the number of people on the road.
Better public transit, such as light rail, would allow long-distance commutes to be done quickly, safely and at a lower environmental cost.
But really, the big one is individual choice. People need to realize that living closer to where you work is not only greener, but it is also a quality-of-life choice in most cases. We know, it doesn't always make sense for various reasons, but at least think about it...
Green Commuting Alternatives
::Telecommuting: Why don't you stay home?
::Lance Armstrong Says: Commute by Bike!
::The $350 Electric Commuter Bike
::Casual Car Pool: Easing the Commute in the Bay Area
::Take the Commute Solutions Challenge
More About Extreme Commutes
::Extreme commutes: More time on road means less time for family