YesssWould you be willing to stand in an elevator for two hours each day? Would it be better if the elevator went twice as fast, but you still were in it for two hours daily?

An item in The Columbus Dispatch on June 30, 2007, declares that “Ohio’s Highways Improving, Study Says: 16th in U.S. Despite Urban Congestion.” Sounds like good news? I’m not so sure, after reading the opening paragraphs from reporter Tim Doulin:

It takes William Kline roughly 80 minutes to make the 73-mile commute from his home in Tipp City to his job in Dublin.

That’s a lot better than when he lived in New York and it took roughly the same amount of time to make a 45-mile commute to his job in Tarrytown, located north of New York City. [emphasis mine]

Just exactly how is that “better”? Sure, it’s more miles for his 80 minutes, but it’s not better! Driving 80 minutes to work (whether one covers 73 miles or 45 miles) is failure in any case. At 30 miles per $2.75 gallon, Mr. Kline must spend more than $3,300 in gas as he logs 36,000 miles each year on his vehicle. But the toll is greater than economic and ecological. That Mr. Kline must spend more than 650 hours per year (more than sixteen 40-hour weeks at the wheel) is horrendous. Think of the worthless use or Mr. Kline’s skills for all those hours. Mr. Kline’s life is more precious than this. He could volunteer in his community, honor his loved ones, exercise, or read during those 13 hours per week. What a waste!

Of course, this isn’t really just about Mr. Kline. The challenges of his family and profession might require this drive. He’s simply doing what seems normal in America, especially for those of us who have lived in New York, Atlanta or Los Angeles.

All of us need to be conscious about how we spend our time and resources. For more on the faulty calculations made by commuters, read “Crushed By Commuting.”