Hidden Costs of Commuting

How Commuting Hurts Us

In 2012 the average American spent about 25 minutes commuting to work every day each way. Some lucky Americans can get to work in 5 to 10 minutes, while others have to spend upwards of an hour commuting each way. Often we write off our commutes as something that does not matter and will not affect our quality of life, but this simply is not the case.

This map shows most of southern New England commute times. Lighter colors represent shorter commutes and tend to cover areas of cities while more suburban areas tend to be shaded by darker colors. Living further from the city center has a strong relationship with increased commute times.

Does Commuting Really Matter?

Yes. Let's do the math. If you are an "average" commuter you will spend 50 minutes per day moving from place to place. This may not sound bad on it's own, but if you extrapolate this over a typical 50 working week per year 40 year career, you have wasted 347 days commuting to and from work, the equivalent of almost an entire year. 

Long commutes also correlate with higher health risks. An article from The New York Times showed that longer commutes correlate with high blood pressure, obesity and cardiovascular disease. And interestingly enough, in Manhattan where people have some of the shortest and most active commutes, the average person weighs 7 pounds less than the average American. 

Just Think

Sometimes it is not possible to eliminate a long commute, but we often have more choice in our lives than we realize. Rather than ignoring the effect of a commute on your own personal well being, I ask that before making a decision about where to work or live, you at least consider how you will feel about spending so much time commuting every day.