My friends who commute more than two hours in total each day tell me that commuting is okay and that they have somehow harmlessly fitted the commuting time into their lives. In their SUVs they make calls, listen to podcasts and mull over some important topics at work. They say that they are happy doing this.
Well, you can also learn to play chess in prison, but when offered a choice I’d still take a a tennis game with my neighbor or teaching my daughter to read over being stuck in a fancy cage with wheels.
There is plenty of research that raises doubts that commuting apologists are in denial and routine transportation from A to B to A correlates with joyless life. For pre-iPhone Germans between 1985-2003 it must have been real hell since even the modern ways to podcast were not yet invented and audio books still came on cassette tapes:
Commuting time and average reported satisfaction with life. (Stutzer, Frey, 2008).
In the article, “Stress that Doesn’t Pay: The Commuting Paradox,” (PDF here) authors Alois Stutzer and Bruno S. Frey find that people with long journeys to and from work are systematically worse off and report significantly lower subjective well-being.
Commuting involves much more than just covering the distance between home and work. Commuting not only takes time, but also generates out-of-pocket costs, causes stress and intervenes in the relationship between work and family, say Stutzer and Frey.
While you can deal with the direct costs of commuting, it is the alternative costs in missed family time, meetings with friends or missed outdoor activity that takes the toll. And even though some commuting can be a necessary evil, you can still reduce its share in your life by changing work/home locations or considering more remote work. After all, one fifth of world’s working population telecommutes.
We will continue computing the ways to shorten your commute.