Commuting is mostly a necessary evil, something that no one really enjoys, but most of us put up with because it is a necessity to do our jobs. Living close to work to have a short commute just isn’t always an option, whether it is due to affordability, a past real estate purchase, preferring different neighborhoods to live in than to work in, and/or weighing where to live against the locations of your partner’s office and your own.
For the first five years I lived in my current city, I worked at one company, occasionally changing office buildings, but not in a way that ever negatively impacted my commute. My partner also has always worked in office buildings to which my condo is a pretty reasonable (under 2 mile) commute for him as well.
When I started job hunting last summer, I first only looked at jobs a similar distance from my condo. There are many jobs available in this 2-3 mile radius, so that seemed like a reasonable plan. I did in the end apply to one job not in that radius, which I mostly did to investigate how working at that company might be and practice interviewing.
After many months of job hunting, I had two offers in hand. One job offer was a reasonable commute (in that 2-3 mile radius) and the other was not. For a variety of reasons, I took the longer commute job after weighing that versus the cons of the job with the shorter commute.
I haven’t had a commute longer than half an hour or one that required taking public transit or driving since 2007. I’ve been reminded this year how much commuting sucks. I don’t regret choosing this job over the other one, so now I’m left to make the best of this commute. I have a few options:
- Take a transit route that doesn’t involve any transfers – it is a direct route. But it involves 53 minutes of walking and about 1 hour and 30 minutes on the bus for a total daily commute time of 2 hours and 23 minutes. This option is free – my employer pays for my bus pass.
- Take a transit route that involves one transfer, so two buses total. It involves less walking, about 36 minutes, about 24 minutes round trip on the first bus, and about 70 minutes round trip on the second bus, for a total daily commute of 2 hours and 10 minutes. This can end up increasing though if the two buses don’t line up well and you end up waiting a bit. I usually end up waiting about 5-10 minutes.
- Driving. I can leave at the same time that I leave to catch the bus and get to work 20-30 minutes earlier. Traffic can be a bit frustrating sometimes and it can take me about 50 minutes to get home. My total commute is about 1 hour and 10 minutes, plus another 10-20 on a bad traffic day. The catches? The all-in cost of driving is about $10/day at today’s costs. I hate driving. There are only certain time windows during which I can leave work with reasonable traffic and if I’m not going to leave during those windows, transit is a less stressful option.
- Move. The problem with this option is that my partner has a good commute now and moving would be complicated to balance our two commutes and who knows how long I’ll keep this job anyway? Plus, the transaction costs of selling my condo are so high that it would be cheaper to drive for 19 years than sell my condo. And then we would end up paying more in rent.
So options 1 and 2 are really about the same expected time and cost since they’re both free. They both have different pros and cons, including one with a shorter or longer walking from my house and one with a transfer.
I was really against driving until I calculated how much time it would gain me back. I could use that extra hour to do homework, go to yoga, or do other fun things. It’s amazing having that hour back. So far, I’ve been experimenting with driving 2-3 days a week and taking transit the other days and that seems to be a reasonable balance.
Readers, how do you commute? What would you do in my situation? Drive? Move? Take transit?