Thursday, June 16, 2011

Splitsville: Another cost of commuting

United States Commute Patterns for Major CitiesImage via WikipediaSalem suffers more from auto commuting than any place I've lived in a life filled with new addresses. There are two principal problems from the practice for Salem:

1) The people who live in Salem and work elsewhere drop out of participation in our community almost entirely. They don't serve on boards and committees or any of the other things we need from adults -- they wave off any suggestion of that by pointing to their grinding commutes up and down I-5.

2) Similarly, the many people --- like a certain Governor --- who take a Salem job but consider themselves too refined or hip to live here wind up sucking up resources and contributing nothing to our community. Basically, the only thing inbound commuters want from Salem is free parking. They don't shop here, join here, recreate here or do anything but take money out of the community and impose the costs of their auto-dominated view of the world, where the only thing that matters is how quickly they can get in and out with their gelt.

They also impose higher costs on the state as a whole, because children of divorce are unhealthier and cause a lot more problems:
Indicators: Costs of Commuting
Slate - This week, researchers at Umea University in Sweden released a startling finding: Couples in which one partner commutes for longer than 45 minutes are 40 percent likelier to divorce.

A survey conducted last year for the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, for instance, found that 40 percent of employees who spend more than 90 minutes getting home from work "experienced worry for much of the previous day." That number falls to 28 percent for those with "negligible" commutes of 10 minutes or less. Workers with very long commutes feel less rested and experience less "enjoyment," as well.

Long commutes also make us feel lonely. Robert Putnam, the famed Harvard political scientist and author of Bowling Alone, names long commuting times as one of the most robust predictors of social isolation. He posits that every 10 minutes spent commuting results in 10 percent fewer "social connections." Those social connections tend to make us feel happy and fulfilled. . . .

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