How to decide if your commute is too long

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The average daily commute in the U.S. is about 25 minutes. The shortest average daily commute is about 15 minutes for people living in Midwest cities like Witchita, Omaha, and Tulsa. New Yorkers have the longest commute — 38 minutes, which is six minutes longer than the average commute time in Chicago. The average commute is increasing across the board, including the number of people who have extreme commutes – 90 minutes or more.

A lot of people try to justify their outrageously long commute. I think this is delusional, and I would know, because I used to have one: Two hours each way between Los Angeles and San Diego. Two hours, that is, if I left home at 5 a.m. and went home at 8 p.m. I thought it would be okay because the money was so good, but actually, I nearly lost my mind.

So think twice about accepting an outrageous commute in order to make outrageous amounts of money. Especially if your extreme commute means that the time outside of work for family and friends is gone – to the car ride. Nattavudh Powdthavee of the University of London published research to show that if you are going to take a job where you will give up seeing family and friends on a regular basis, you would need to earn $133,000 just to make up for the lack of happiness you feel from being away from those people.

The idea that you move deep into the suburbs to get a huge house is pretty much over. Gen X and Y don’t believe in McMansions, which is why there’s a glut of them on the market right now. But Gen X and Y do believe in maintaining nimble, flexible careers, so it’s surprising that this trend isn’t the nail in the coffin of deep suburbia. Because Brendan, at The Where Blog, points out that the values we hold highest – marriage, community, and extra time with the family – are falling apart in the face of a long commute as we are in our cars commuting for so long and spending days far away from our communities during the day.

And, if the city is too far to justify driving in for a part-time job, then your commute limits the way you can structure your family. For example, polls show most mothers would rather work part-time than be at home full-time with their children, but Wendy Waters points out, in her blog All About Cities, that the possibilities for part-time work are severely limited if home is a long commute from the city. For both spouses.

But even if you are not killing your spouse’s career potential with your choices for a commute, the amount of stress a commute brings on is bigger than you could imagine and it’s uncontainable.

This is because a bad commute is bad in a different way every day, and you can’t predict it. Harvard psychologist Daniel Gilbert explains (video) that the human mind is great at adapting to things that won’t change: we convince ourselves we will be fine, and then it becomes basically true that we will be. But if things change all the time, we cannot use that adaptive part of our brain. In this way, having a bad commute is worse than losing a limb.

So if you have a bad commute, you are probably not very happy. And you should know that a bad commute spills over into all aspects of your life. Raymond Novaco, a psychologist and professor at the University of California, Irvine, found that bad traffic on the way home makes for a bad mood in the evening. This is true regardless of age, gender, income, and job satisfaction.

A lot of managing your daily commute comes down to making compromises in terms of limiting where you can take a job, what kind of job you can take, and how big a yard your kids can have to run in. For most of us, a long commute is about getting a better job in exchange for less personal time. But the decision about how far to commute is like most career decision points in that you must consider that your biggest problems will not be solved by getting a better job or more money, they will be solved by spending more time with friends and family, or getting to know yourself better.

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  1. Alex K
    Alex K says:

    Hi Penelope,

    Good article. I mostly agree, but I think there’s an important caveat here – I believe this only applies to the car commute. I work in Manhattan, and live in southern Brooklyn, so my commute is 1 hour and 10 minutes door-to-door. However, all this time is spent on the train, where I relax, read a book, write if I feel like it, and generally take my time off the things. Also, since I like to go to the gym before work, I leave home very early (6:20 AM) and the train is always empty.

    If I had to spend 2 hours and 20 minutes each day driving, getting caught in traffic, etc, I would be cursing my life. But as it is now, I’m actually very happy.

    * * * * * * *

    Alex. I commuted from Brooklyn to Manhattan for seven years. The trains are totally unreliable, which is exactly what the research is talking about. You never know when they will be switched. You never know when you’ll be stopped at a station. You can’t estimate your arrival times within twenty minutes. I am not saying a train is as bad as a car, but NY subways are not particularly reliable.

    Sidenote: Not that I’ve done it, but the research I’ve read said commuters who travel by water are the happiest. This applies to a bunch of New Yorkers…


  2. Dave Atkins
    Dave Atkins says:

    I totally agree commuting is a huge problem. When we relocated from Silicon Valley, where everything was suburban, we had a day or two to find a home and one of our absolute criteria was less than 1/2 mile to public transit within 30 minutes of downtown. That allowed us to live in a town within the metro core. But the trains often run late. And if you need to get home in the middle of the day, there are no trains, so it can be a mess. Most schools in this country are apparantly designed to educate farm children (why do they send kids home at 3pm?!!) with stay at home parents–so an early release snow results in a total mess for parents who commute.

    Choosing to live in the city is not necessarily a solution either–the irony for many is that they end up changing jobs to high tech companies that have located on the periphery…so you have a reverse commute from Boston to Waltham, Burlington, Chelmsford, etc. Better to just move to the suburbs then and have a short commute…until you change jobs again to another point on the circle…This phenomenom, in regions like Boston where there is a high-tech ring (Route 128) has been referred to as “Techistan,” I think…

  3. Amanda B.
    Amanda B. says:

    I agree on the long commute and so does my employer.

    I was offered a job that is ~65 miles each way, with horrendous traffic. Due to my husband’s job, moving wasn’t an option (he already has a 35 mile commute by public transit).

    My new employer recognized this and we were able to agree on a work from home schedule that restricts my number of commutes a week to one.

    It is working wonderfully well. The job is more satisfying than my last. I work very well independently and am not much of a people person so working from home is working better for me and I still have time in the office so people don’t forget I exist.

    Employers are becoming more flexible to get the people they want. Be one of those people. Life is better for all that way.

  4. r crane, UCLA
    r crane, UCLA says:

    Nice. 3 comments: 1, someone once told me that if you have a long commute you’d better really like going both directions, both to home and work. 2, you are right that longer commutes are more common but the averages are not not changing so much, as jobs decentralize with people. This doesn’t take away from your main point that anyone finding themselves in an outrageous situation should reconsider the consequences.

    3, you touched on differences by sex, which Novaco also emphasizes, so you might be interested in my recent article on commuting trends over the past couple of decades. In short, while women’s commutes are lengthening (in time and distance) they aren’t catching up to men any time soon. This is less true of married couples with children present, where women’s commutes are increasing most quickly, and men’s least. One can imagine all kinds of explanations for this. What it means for the American Dream is less clear.

  5. Justin
    Justin says:

    Penelope–not sure I agree with you about the subway. I commute from downtown Brooklyn to Manhattan every day (about 40 minutes door-to-door each way), and the subway overall is pretty reliable. Now, on days where things get screwed up, I’m VERY pissed and blow it out of proportion, but, overall, reading for 1/2 an hour on the train is a nice way to start the day. Granted, I would prefer my commute to be shorter, all things being equal, but it’s not on the top of my list of things I want (otherwise I’d take a smaller apartment in Manhattan).

    • Rodrigo
      Rodrigo says:

      I am very surprised to hear your comments on the NYC subway system. I commute from Hoboken and I take the PATH to Subway every day. My door-to-door commute ranges from 40 minutes to an hour. I always allow an hour though. I find the subway and PATH system to be pretty reliable. I definitely wouldn’t consider moving to Manhattan just to shorten my commute. I very much prefer the life here in Hoboken.

      That being said, you’re totally right about the extreme commutes. I had a 2 hour door-to-door commute for a couple of months and it was hellish. I did get a lot of reading done though.

  6. Tiffany Monhollon
    Tiffany Monhollon says:

    The issue of commuting and work and relationships is an interesting one to me. I had a crazy commute, two commutes actually, for over a year, and I hated it. I commuted about an hour to work, and then over half an hour from there to school, and then an hour back home, and it was really, really hard to not complain about it, to be miserable, and to hate my car. All the time.
    Then, for a year, I had a short commute to work but an hour commute to my relationship, which was where I lived before I moved to live closer to work. And I hated that just about as much.

    Now, my commute to work is 15-20 minutes, and I my boyfriend (same one!) is a 10 minute drive, and I am much happier. With work and with life.

  7. Gene Shiau
    Gene Shiau says:

    I commuted when I went to high school: 2 hours on the bus each way during peak hours. It was a nightmare — no, I take it back; I didn’t even have time to sleep, much less having nightmares. Since then I always tried to live close to school (five years in the same dormatory, because my classroom was within 5 minutes walking) or close to work (5 minutes to my workplace — on foot). Until someday I find/create a job that lets me work completely remotely from home, I’ll continue living close to work to avoid commuting.

    Am I inconvenienced by not living in the suburb? Hmm, not that I can tell.

  8. MariaMH
    MariaMH says:

    I am not sure I have any solutions to this, especially when we do all seem to be changing jobs more often. I just wish more people understood this. I am looking for a job right now and have constrained my search to companies within a certain mile radius. It doesn’t include the biggest city in the area (Cleveland) but it does include several outlying cities that are “hubs” with a lot of companies. Some people have been surprised that I won’t consider certain places, but I did an hour and ten minute commute one way when I was younger. It sucked and I won’t do that again; I was newly married, miserable that I couldn’t be home with my hunny, gained weight, etc. It is amazing the toll it takes on you.

    At my last job I had a beautiful 30-minute commute – no highways, mostly through a national park winding along a river – the biggest obstacles were the deer. By the time I got home I hardly ever had any stress and was able to enjoy my evenings. What a difference!

  9. Joe R.
    Joe R. says:

    Here’s another interesting way to quantify the value of the time spent on your commute. If you’re salaried, divide your yearly salary by 52 weeks, then divide that weekly salary by 40 hours to get your hourly wage. Then estimate how many hours you spend in the car each day commuting. Multiply it by five to get the weekly amount and then by 52 to get the number of hours spent commuting in a year. Multiply that by your hourly wage to to get the amount of money that your commuting time is “worth” each year.

    Granted, it’s your decision where you live, and that’s why your employer doesn’t pay you for the time you spend commuting, but to consider if they did will give you a pretty amazing number. My commute at my last job was 30 minutes each way. I did the math and figured that my commuting time was “worth” about $7,000 each year, and that was on an entry-level salary at a non-for-profit.

    I walk 12 minutes to my new job. I’m definitely a much happier person now, and I’m going to sell my car b/c I don’t need it anymore. Living in the city is more expensive in terms of rent, but the ease of travel is more than worth it.

  10. Jesse Cline
    Jesse Cline says:

    Good article. I live north of Baltimore and used to have a client north of DC. That meant a minimum 90 minute commute each way. Let me stress minimum. We worked 11-12 hour days on top of it. It was completely miserable. It was only 4 months out of the year for two years, but I dreaded it. I had other clients that were 30 minutes away, that were more complex, more stressful, but didn’t seem as bad since when the day was over I could just go straight home. You have been a lot better Penelope, keep up the good work.

  11. Ben C
    Ben C says:

    I live in Melbourne, Australia. I’ve lived here for 6 years or so and have made a point of staying in the rental market simply because I can move with my work.

    My partner works in the CBD and for the foreseeable future will likely remain to work in the CBD. Most of my work has been inner-suburbs, but scattered throughout the inner circle. As soon as I start with a new employer that requires a commute across the city we tend to move between the CBD and my new place of employment.

    This means my partner can commute in a very short space of time on the train (a handful of stops) and I can drive or ride my bike out to my workplace against the flow of peak-hour traffic.

    Of course, we’re blessed with the flexibility to move at the drop of a hat but this is just another example of how us ‘Gen Y’ crowd choose to live.

    • Augusta Fells
      Augusta Fells says:

      This is a really interesting point: If the new American Dream doesn’t involve a 30-year career, does it make sense for it to always involve a 30-year mortgage?

      There was an article written a few years a go (in Newsweek? Time? not sure…) about how government policies that encourage homeownership shift potential dollars away from businesses, savings, and other investments that would have a more stimulatory effect on the economy and put them into real estate. Maybe the answer to unemployment and lack of investment in businesses is the same: renting!

  12. Amy
    Amy says:

    I also have to disagree about the NYC commute. I have a 45-min commute from brooklyn to manhattan, which includes a 15-minute walk to the subway. I actually look forward to it, and choose to see it as a built-in half-hour of exercise every day, plus time on the train to read, listen to podcasts, etc.–things I might otherwise get too busy to fit in. When the trains are late–which isn’t all that frequent at rush hour–sure, I feel a little inconvenienced, but it’s also a good opportunity to practice patience. One huge improvement, however, will be when they upgrade all the stations with digital displays of when the next train is coming. I mind much less waiting for 10 minutes if I KNOW it’s going to be 10 minutes. This is how the trains are in Berlin, and it’s so reassuring to have that info.

  13. Ross
    Ross says:

    Where I live, many people choose to commute by bicycle. What takes 10 minutes by automobile can easily take more than 30 minutes by bicycle. Other folks simply walk to work, which make for more than 30 minutes of commute time. Yet, these cyclists and walkers seem to me to be more “happy” than those folks who commute by automobile. Thus, I don’t think it’s necessarily the TIME issue that makes for a “bad” commute, but rather the mode of transportation that one uses for the commute.

  14. Tk
    Tk says:

    I absolutely agree that a short commute has become a status symbol. I’m 1.4 miles from my job now and it is such an enormous blessing. (I still drive because of weather and crime in the area but intend to start walking or cycling come better weather.) I used to do a horrible 1-1.5 hour commute each way in London and it was not possible to relax. I had to change trains once and walk 10 minutes on each end, and the crowding was so bad that you were lucky to spend it not breathing a sweaty man’s armpit, let alone sitting down reading. I miss London very much but not commuting is a huge benefit.

  15. Eileen
    Eileen says:

    If a short commute is a status symbol, then I’m very high status. I walk 5 minutes to work each day, but I still can’t get there on time.

  16. Marianne
    Marianne says:

    For the past two years my commute has been a 20 minute walk or 10 minute bike ride. Prior to that my commute was a 3 hour round trip extravaganza of walking, commuter rail, subway, and more walking. I can’t even describe how much happier I am now. Not having to spend so much time commuting has just made everything easier – I get more sleep, see my friends more often and don’t feel tied to the often-erratic MBTA.

  17. Ian
    Ian says:

    There is a glut of McMansions on the market right now because homes were overbuilt—and higher margin homes greatly overbuilt—due to the incredibly loose monetary policy of the past few years. I strongly doubt that the preferences of the mobile subset of Gen X and Y are more than a glitch compared to the incredible market reaction to Low-Teaser-Rate Adjustable No Money Down loans that until recently proliferated.

  18. Wendy
    Wendy says:

    Great article. I’ve always made it a point to have a short commute, because, though I love to drive and will gladly take an impulse road trip any old day of the week, I do NOT love to drive in city traffic, especially during rush hour.

    My current commute is 7 minutes each way. My previous two jobs were 5 minutes each way and 15 minutes each way.

    The 15-minute one (my longest ever) was actually a wonderful experience only because I convinced my boss to let me work 10 to 6 instead of 8 to 5. I was never late because of traffic, and life was a lot less stressful.

    I once turned down a job making about twice what I’m making now, and the primary reason was that I’d have a commute of nearly an hour. At rush hour. That was a BIG quality of life issue for me!

    I should mention that I live in a suburb of a major metropolitan area, with a good mix of residential and commercial zones. I have a quarter-acre lot with a smallish house on it, so there’s a decent yard for the kids to play in. There are two schools down the street with large parking lots and open playgrounds; and the schools adjoin a city park, so the kids have plenty of room to stretch themselves a bit.

  19. Rachel
    Rachel says:


    I think you mean Wichita. Kansas, right?

    Interesting that New Yorkers seem so happy with the subway! Someone should send this to the MTA!

    I wonder if people are really happier with the subway than driving, or if the commentors here are just happier people in general. I mean, certainly someone could say, “I love to get in my car and listen to the radio for 30 minutes every day,” right? Or is there something specific about traffic and driving that makes people frustrated?

    I personally hate driving, so I don’t like the suburbs very much, but some people think it is the bees’ knees to have a big house, and a yard, and a garage. And they don’t seem to mind getting in the car every single day. I wonder if there are any of those people reading this blog? Does anyone drive to work and like it?

  20. Dave
    Dave says:

    Unlike Rachel, who hates driving, I love to drive. Maybe it’s because of what I drive, rather than the drive itself though. I am probably on my motorcycle 95% of the time, and lane-splitting is legal here, so gridlock doesn’t affect me much. I know that when I do take the car, I hate it! I did the reverse of your drive – San Diego to Irvine, 60 miles each way – for 3 years. I left that job not because of the commute, but because I got tired of having to work too many 36 hour days – there’s that unpredictability thing again. I’d go to work one day, a crisis would erupt, and I wouldn’t get home until the next afternoon. You can only do that so long before you burn out, but the ride back south each day alongside the ocean was calming and refreshing. Dump the luxo-box, take some rider training, buy proper gear, and get on 2 wheels! Prepare to cut your gas expenses by a significant amount, while still having a ride that will outperform most of the cars on the road. On a beautiful day, I’ll pull into the parking lot and think “I wish I could just keep driving…”

  21. Terry
    Terry says:

    I agree, a long commute is frustrating but a reality for many people. Depends on the infrastructure and layout of the city. So what can you do? How about car pool? As for myself I listen to audiobooks on my Ipod and this has helped immensely. i don’t even notice the commute many days.

  22. Elizabeth Gage
    Elizabeth Gage says:

    I have a long commute: about 50 minutes to an hour one way. But it’s not a bad commute, in the sense that I’m never stuck in bad, slow traffic, partly because I rarely travel during normal commute hours. (I work in a department store in a mall). And I like to drive, but I would feel wasteful driving 90 miles a day just for fun.

    I’m certainly not doing it for the money. My car gets about 30 miles to the gallon, but gas alone is probably costing me $60 plus a week for the commute alone (not including other driving).

    I don’t make a huge amount of money but I love my job (selling cosmetics) and there are no similar jobs in the small town where I live. Or many jobs of any kind, for that matter. Retail jobs are either at Target or at small boutiques that pay even less than I’m taking home after the gas expense.

    I agree that the commute robs me of valuable time in my home and community. It is probably also a factor in the current moribund state of my marriage. But that’s a long, other, story.

    I’m nostalgic for the days when I could walk to my job in the bookstore we owned which was the reason we moved to this small town in the first place, or when I lived in Amsterdam and could take a tram or train, or ride a bike.

  23. David B. Bohl at
    David B. Bohl at says:


    I couldn’t agree more.

    I actually lived what you’ve written about. For two years of my life, I commuted from Chicago to New York, leaving my home Sunday afternoons and returning Friday nights. For added effect, I threw regular one-day trips to London in there to work at my company’s headquarters.

    Before that, I’d commute from Souteastern Wisconsin to Chicago every workday – 96.5 miles each way. It took 1.5 hours driving to Chicago because I left at 4:30 in the morning, and an average of 2.5 hours going home in early rush hour. Things got really interesting when they decided to resurface the Interstate highway I commuted on – for 3 years!

    And if that wasn’t enough, I lived in a Chicago suburb 17 miles from the city. I cold get to work early in about 30 minutes, but it took and hour and a half to get home. Things weren’t so bad, relatively, when the roads were dry, but I remember a Valentine’s Day snow storm that created a 6 and a half hour commute home to what was supposed to be a romantic dinner with my wife. I was so exhausted by the time I got home that I went directly to bed, rising a few hours later to make a 4 hour commute back into the city.

    What did I learn? It isn’t worth it. I’ve been working out of a home office for the past 12 years and love every minute of it.


  24. Eve
    Eve says:

    Unfortunately though, if you want to move up or change careers or have any kind of change and live in arural area you MUST commute crazy hours because there is nowhere else to work…unless you want to change careers to work at the local 7/11! Sometimes you don’t have a choice if you want the job that is and you can only hope and pray its temporary. Although I think that it is sad so many have to spend so much time in the car.

    Having said that, if it is to advance your career or get out of a rut or get a job PERIOD…what are you supposed to do? Ask them to allow you to telecommute? Yeah right!

  25. Eve
    Eve says:

    So if you have a bad commute, you are probably not very happy. And you should know that a bad commute spills over into all aspects of your life. Raymond Novaco, a psychologist and professor at the University of California, Irvine, found that bad traffic on the way home makes for a bad mood in the evening. This is true regardless of age, gender, income, and job satisfaction.”


    Yes, this is definately true. I know when my husband had a terrile commute and now I have a long one though not as bad as his.

    However, perhaps people at least where I live, should learn to drive, because I KNOW my commute is insane but I also know how to predict its insanity- if people would simply drive to work and back and that would be it many of the insane problems would disapear.

  26. Eve
    Eve says:

    Hate to have multiple comments here, but….this is crazy!

    “But the decision about how far to commute is like most career decision points in that you must consider that your biggest problems will not be solved by getting a better job or more money, they will be solved by spending more time with friends and family, or getting to know yourself better.”

    How can we spend more time w/ our family and friends and-what’s this sillyness? Get to know ourselves better? If we don’t HAVE money? you need money to spend time with everyone and as much time as you want. You cannot sit on your a$$ and not pay bills to spend time with others because “that’s what real happiness is”. That may very well be, but it takes MONEY….

  27. Joselle Palacios
    Joselle Palacios says:

    Thanks for this post, Penelope. A commute is hugely important and something we often overlook when choosing a job. My commute is my number one reason for being unhappy right now.

    I commute an hour in the morning and an hour in the evening. That’s if it doesn’t rain, snow, and there’s no accident. Factor one of those in and I can be on the road anywhere from an hour and a half to two and half hours ONE way. It’s absolutely horrific. And no amount of good music, deep breathing, and funny radio makes up for it. With my commute, I have road rage and sleep deprivation nearly every day.

    A long commute is also terrible for one’s body. I cannot stress how important it is to find a job close to you if you’ll be sitting at a desk most of the day. One or the other is not the best but doing both is a recipe for disaster. A recipe for back pain, neck pain, repetitive strain in the arms and more. Also, when I get home after sitting in bad traffic for over an hour and it’s dark and cold, the last thing I want to do is workout even though it is absolutely the one thing I need to do most.

    So, my next job HAS to be close and that’s what I look for now–location. Everything can be negotiated. I’ve learned that much. I need it for my sanity and my waistline. The one good thing is that I’ve learned this as a single, young person still growing rather than one with kids and a spouse. I don’t know how people do it with kids. I would absolutely lose it and would probably snap at my kids all the time.

  28. Joselle Palacios
    Joselle Palacios says:

    Just wanted to add, I would commute a little longer if I could take city public transit. NOT suburban where you drive to a parking lot and then sit on a bus or train for over an hour to get to a city. But I would totally take a subway for 40 minutes because at least I wouldn’t have to drive and I could read and walk more.This is another reason why I am moving back to the city after living in suburbia for too long. But my true ideal would be to never have to own a car and to walk to work everyday.

    Eve, of course money is important but I would take less money (enough to live on, of course, but less) for more time with my loved ones and less stress for myself. And I think it’s absolutely possible if you discard the crap that’s less important (like a big, ugly McMansion and a big, poisonous car). I’m not talking about poverty here. I’m talking about when you have choices, you should (and do) make them.

  29. deepali
    deepali says:

    I definitely agree, with a condition – the type of commute matters. For example, I live in DC and go to school in Baltimore. The days I have to drive are stressful. The days I take the train are much less stressful. Partly because of the lack of traffic, and partly because it’s a forced 1.5 hours of being productive. I actually enjoy it. The only time I don’t is if I have an exam that day (hence I have to be in class when it starts) and there is some delay on the train. But, perhaps it’s better for my mental health to learn a little patience and not expect everything to go my way all the time.

    All that aside, my commute to work is about 15 minutes kitchen-to-office if I take metro. But I like to walk, making it almost 40 minutes. Same distance, more time, but I get some exercise and some time to myself (as long as I wear headphones to ignore the hissing and honking!).

  30. Pirate Jo
    Pirate Jo says:

    People in the Des Moines area are living in suburban McMansions just as much as ever, but businesses are popping up in the suburbs, too. Living in the suburbs doesn’t mean you have to commute to the downtown area. You might only have a two-mile commute to the nearest office park.

    I like the idea of mixing residential and office/commercial space. Do we really need to have all the houses in one place, all the office buildings in another, and have everyone drive from the houses to the offices, all at the same time? Parking in the suburbs is usually free and abundant, too.

    Companies located downtown have a harder time finding employees – no one wants to mess with driving through the endless corkscrew of the parking garages. I have several friends who will not even consider working downtown. Even if they have to commute from a north suburb to a western one, they can still do the whole thing in 15 minutes and park for free.

  31. Eve
    Eve says:


    Your Post:
    Eve, of course money is important but I would take less money (enough to live on, of course, but less) for more time with my loved ones and less stress for myself. And I think it's absolutely possible if you discard the crap that's less important (like a big, ugly McMansion and a big, poisonous car). I'm not talking about poverty here. I'm talking about when you have choices, you should (and do) make them.

    That is just it-Perhaps I should clarify: I have no choice. I’m not making enough to live on now. So when I say “more money” I mean enough to start a life with my husband. Since we don’t have enough now it would be a step up. Also, here is the ironic thing-Jobs I would take now that are a longer commute than my 30 min to an hour one would be in the hopes that I could live where I work because I definately don’t want to continue the long commute. I don’t see that as an option. But, you have to take a job temporarily, to live somewhere, you can’t magically get both (without money of course…all of my problems go back to that). I am thinking that Penelope was speaking to people who try to justify the horrific commute for the rest of their lives. Me, I would take the longer commute in the short run if I could live where I work….because the only way I can afford to LIVE where I work NOW is if I made 6 figures and it sucks!

  32. EclecitcWAHM
    EclecitcWAHM says:

    You’re so right! I even enjoy driving, but the commute in bad traffic just stressed me out. I was much happier when I had a commute of less than 10 minutes through a really beautiful neighborhood.

    Now my commute is to the coffee maker and shuffling to the computer. I took what I consider to be a significant reduction in pay to work from home, but subtract the cost of the commute, dry-cleaning, lunches out etc. and it’s pretty close. And my happiness factor jumped ten-fold.

  33. Melanie
    Melanie says:

    It would be great to have a shorter commute but the living expenses are a lot higher in the city. I got a nice starter home in the suburb instead and commute 45 minutes to work. Riding the vanpool keeps me sane and less stressed out – it’s always on time (give or take 5 minutes), and I’ve developed relationships with them that makes the whole commuting thing more social.

    The downside to living in the suburb is that I’m at least 20 minutes from the freeway (and the mall) so I feel like I commute a lot on the weeknights and weekends too!

  34. Nirav
    Nirav says:

    Indian perspective …

    Basically I am from a small city in India. I did my MBA from Mumbai (one of the most populated city on earth) and started working here. I travelled around 2 hrs each side and to top up it, extra commute to meet clients !! At Mumbai, we have public transport, just for the sake of name, trains are so crowded that u feel lucky if u can board one in the first place !! And travelling by road would cost u a bomb and a life time to reach ur destination.

    My life got hell, and was on verge of quarter life crisis. Now after working for 2 yrs, I decided that I have had enough and has recently got a job at my hometown and will soon relocate there. I hope now my life would be more “livable” even though I know this step of mine has hampered my career a little.

  35. kristi
    kristi says:

    Penelope, I’m reading your blog tonight from my baby’s hospital bed and what a chord you struck. I have a great job that used to be a 25 min commute but is now an hour each way. My family outgrew our rental and we were priced out of the city, so we moved where we could afford a house, saving over $150k, so not small potatoes. After 6 months, I approached my boss about working from home 2 days a week. I had proven myself doing this for the first year on the job, though not on a set schedule. I even leveraged the fact that there was a job opening just blocks from my house, but I would stay with my firm if I could work out a regular at-home schedule. Guess what? No dice. The VP says he’s not “prepared to manage others wanting to do the same.”
    So I applied for the new job. If it doesn’t come thru, I will stay put because my family needs the benefits and I’m currently the sole provider as my hubby is just returning to work in real estate after a work injury. But I’ve been debating on what cost it will be to my family?
    As I said, my baby’s hospitalized, following an out-of-the blue staph infection that went wild. This has put life in perspective like nothing else can.
    I’ve done the calculation…but mine is in time, not dollars: 13 work weeks a year are spent driving to/from work.

    I’d love to hear more about convincing your boss telecommuting is the way to go when the objection is not about productivity, but altering the institution of business as they know it. Waiting on Gen Ys masses to force the issue will take longer than I can wait.

  36. Fred
    Fred says:

    I believe a person’s commuting time should be a secondary factor; secondary to such things as whether WHAT they’re doing and WHO they are working for. One of my favorite quotes of all time is: “What makes men happy is liking what they have to do” – Anonymous

  37. orlando
    orlando says:

    I live 300 miles from where I work at this time. I stay with family to cut the daily commute down to 60 minutes each way. I ride a shuttle bus that costs $90 for a one month pass. On Fridays I drive myself to work so that I can head straight home after work. With gasoline prices rising and the cost of car maintenance and the bus fare it is getting pretty expensive. I have been doing this for 3 1/2 years and I was hoping to finish 5 years to get vested. There is an office where I live and I work there when I have had car trouble. My boss has tried to get me moved but upper management says no.

  38. Will G.
    Will G. says:

    My wife and I (recently married) live in NJ and work 30 miles from home in opposite directions. For her, she goes against traffic which take a nice 20-25 minutes doing 60 mph down a highway. Meanwhile I face a mean 1-1 1/2 hour drive on Rt 287 doing about 8.7 mph (lol). Plus I cut through Rutgers University which during the school year adds on about 30-45 min. My road options are pretty limited being the way the roads were built and other transportation is not an option (train, bus, etc). Getting to work on time is dicey because it is hit or miss how many accidents or how much contruction I will see each day (notice I didn’t say “IF”). Last week a truck accident caused me to spend 3 hours and 40 min crawling to work.

    Oh and for the wonderful gas prices which keep increasing, I fill my tank every three days at approximately $60 a shot. That’s about an annual $3000-$4000 excluding weekends. Tack on the several accidents I have been in (rear-ended, side swiped, etc) the car bills chip away too.

    Anyways, thanks for letting me vent and your article made me realize that this is not nor is it healthy. A loose rule of thumb should be: if you commute by car, try to work in your own area code and/or county.

  39. Alchik
    Alchik says:

    Well, I’ve been doing a 2+ hour commute from Baltimore to DC for 4 years now. It’s been slowing driving me bonkers. No friends, almost no family and pretty much a zilch home life. It’s like I’ve been living just to pay bills, eat, sleep and work. The money is great but that’s it. I was sort of forced into my home by the economics at the time. I couldn’t see putting myself on the brink of financial disaster just to be near work. Well, I’m paying for it now and it’s equally as stressful.
    Finally, about a month ago I got to shift my hours so it cut my commute in half each way. It’s been great! I can see my daughter in the evening and actually have some time to do a couple of things before going to bed. I can actually watch a few minutes of tv! But today, I found out that this change has stressed out one of my single employees that lives just a few miles from work. Now, HR is going to force me back to my old schedule. Jeez, I guess you could compare it to being sent back to prison. With the job situation as it is I’m stuck with it. I sure miss my 30 min commutes!

    Thanks for letting me vent!

  40. Tori
    Tori says:

    my husband just got a new job paying very well and growth potential is great – the downer is a 2 hr commute each way -where we leave now I work make descent and I get free healthcare for me and my family. we have discussed moving closer to his job but I would have to quit my job and my family would lose free healthcare, not mention the cost of living would double, I think along commute it is for now, I would to hear feedback– I’m afraid to quit my job and move in this horrific economy

  41. Salman Khan
    Salman Khan says:


    Your post really touched my heart. I’m in the same position and can’t decide whether to buy my dream house with garage 50 miles away…….or settle for a condo with no garage 15 miles away from where I work.

    I have lots of co-workers who do the commute…..but I don’t want to make a decision that I will regret.

    Thanks again for your post.

  42. Jeff OB
    Jeff OB says:

    I have been on the fence about a job offer for the last three months… feed back would be appreciated.

    Here are the facts, I travel at-least 1000 miles every week with one or two overnights as a sales person. I make a GREAT living. I have been offered a great opportunity where I could be home every, but we will have to move from our cool trendy neighborhood to the burbs and then still have a 70 mile commute. The commute will be an easy 70 miles each way. No traffic, interstate. I am used to driving. I love to drive.

    I can handle the move to the burbs. We want to start a family soon, so a house with a garage and a drive are both very appealing. But, will I get burnt out on the commute? Like I said, I am used to driving. I can leave he house around 7 get the office by 8:30… leave office around 5ish (or sooner) and get home by 7 most nights. With remote access, I can probably work from home one or two days a week after the first year.


    • Jeff OB
      Jeff OB says:

      I’ve been doing this commute for 6 months now (after this post). 110 Miles North, 110 Miles South. Not too bad. Thank God for Howard Stern in the morning! Calling friends has really helped pass the time. Look, I have my own business now and I am home every night, no more airports, hotels in the middle of nowhere. You simply have to be willing to do what most aren’t. Eventually, we will move and shorten the commute, but not by much. I simply will never live in a small town. All in all… Life is good and when Howard retires… then I may have a problem. Bob-a-booey!

  43. Laurie
    Laurie says:

    Hi Penelope. I need your help! I drive 100 miles r/t 5 days a week from N.W. New Jersey to Manhattan. I’ve worked at my current job for almost 8 years. We rented in Hoboken for 7 1/2 years and decided to buy a home. Home prices are obviously more affordable further from the city. After a 2 year search we found the perfect home and town for us. Now I feel totally trapped by my commute which is very expensive. After taking a train for 7 mos. the fare went up 30% so I decided to drive. Have been driving for 6 months. Currently I get up at 3:30am, leave home at 5am and return home around 6pm. This ridiculous cycle leaves me drained at the day’s end. There is no job that pays “Manhattan” salaries where we live but I just can’t do this anymore. I need to get my life under control. Any advice for someone who’s ready to make a change and a smart way to go about it?

  44. chris
    chris says:

    Help me please… I have a commute of exactly 100 miles each way (200 miles per day) and I do it 5 days a week. I leave my house between 330am and 400am every day and it takes me an hour and forty five minutes to get to work. Now, after an average of 10 to 12 hours of work, each day, sometimes up to 15 hours, my horrible commute takes me anywhere form 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 hours to get home. Oh, and my job is driving a cement mixer all day. So I get home between 700 and 900, possibly later, depending on how bad the traffic is and how many hours i worked that day. Im married and we have 4 kids, ages 15, 13, 12 and a three month old. My question is what should I do? My wife says stick it out for 5 more years til the 3 oldest are done with high school at which point we can move closer to work and get a small house. I dont think I can make it any longer. Ive been commuting from our town for 12 years and I am so beat all of the time. I have a union job thats pays 100k plus per year and being union I get to retire at age 50, in 12 years. So I cant leave the job. The house Im in now is about 1400 per month (we rent because we sold our house before the housing mess started)but where i work, san jose, california, the same house would be in excess of 4000 per month to rent, or 7500+ per month to own (million plus to buy). We can downsize to 3 to 4 bedrooms where I work for 2500 per month (rent). I sleep on average 3 to 4 hours a night during the work week and have fallen asleep going to or coming home from work numerous times but luckily never wrecked…..YET. I cant change jobs or i lose my seniority and at least 40 to 50 percent wage reduction, not to mention decreasing my pension, 401k, and benefits. The work in the town i live in would pay nothing close to what i make now. My family does not understand why i come home so grumpy but at the same time they dont want to move, even though ive explained all of this to them. What do I do? I hope I dont sound like a whiner. Thank you

    • Louise
      Louise says:

      To the cement truck drier with a commute from he** … what about finding a bed-sitter arrangement near work and stay there during the weekdays, coming home for the weekend. It doesn’t sound like you get quality time as it is, so not being there four days a week might not be an issue … but at least it would solve the major portion of your commute. You could head out Monday morning. Stay near your work Monday to Thursday night and drive home Friday night. Sane, rested, and hopefully not too much out $$ by renting just a bedroom. I’ve also seen some people with RVs set up permanently near the jobsites. Perhaps another option. Good luck.

      • Tribe
        Tribe says:

        Agreed about staying near work. If you’re driving that much, what do you get with your kids? Like 10 minutes.  Stay near work, don’t lose your mind, and make skype your friend.

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