Commuting makes us unhappy.
The time spent commuting from point A to point B (and back) is time that you are not spending with your loved ones, exercising, take up a new hobby, participating in social events or doing meaningful work. It is time you spend building up stress, getting a headache, feeling lonely, frustrated in traffic or rocking on a train. No joy comes from spending over 90 minutes in traffic, alone, twice a day, five days a week. (Yes, the occasional morning drive with nothing but a great playlist is quite nice – those days are few and far between).
And if those trade-offs weren’t bad enough, commuting is also unpredictable. We know how long our commute takes on average, however, we can’t always predict the time it will take us to reach our destination each day. There are often unexpected delays – accidents, construction, malfunctions – events we cannot plan for. That is something we can never get used to.
So why do we keep doing it?
Economists have noted for decades that when we make the decision to commute, we rarely take our time into account. The house with the backyard, cheaper rent, or better location take up the whole picture. What is missed are the costs a household, or individual incur in both time and money. Not just housing and transportation costs, but in time. Economists Stutzer and Frey found that in order to be compensated for a 23 minute commute to work, a person would have to earn 19 percent more per month, on average, in order to be compensated for their time.
A persons’ decision about where to live, work and how long to commute is one based on the value of time, specifically, loss of spare time. This is an extremely interesting topic as there are no set guidelines on how to make this decision. Each person values time differently and assessing the cost of lost time is a challenging one.
At the end of the day, commuting is a choice we make and its negative impact on our health and well-being should be factored into that decision.
Sources: Census Bureau, The Commuting Paradox, Alois Strutzer and Bruno S. Frey.