A recent article on Slate.com reiterated what many of us already know: our commutes are killing us. Recent research has indicated that longer commute times are associated with spending less time sleeping, less time preparing healthful foods, and less time exercising. These factors are contributing to the obesity epidemic and making us less healthy overall. Commuting is also associated with neck and back problems. Commuting is also an anti-social activity – when we’re alone in our cars, we’re giving up time with our friends and family. The social and physical harm that comes from long commutes should show us that there is a very real need to live close to where we work.
But for some reason, we keep commuting longer and longer distances to work each day. In the past two decades, the number of people commuting 90+ minutes each way has doubled to 3.5 million Americans. People are often willing to commute a long distance to a city center to have the low home prices and quiet life of the suburbs. However, they don’t take into consideration the cost of their time – they lose hours of valuable time to a stressful commute. More and more people are now reverse commuting – living in city centers and driving to jobs in suburban industrial parks or offices. This is because cheap, easily developable land and quick access to interstate highways has led businesses like manufacturers to the suburbs. However, the largest, most able workforce is remains in cities. Suburban manufacturers could be losing productivity because their workers are tired, unhealthy, and unhappy from their long commutes. Urban manufacturers can employ a nearby workforce, and workers can walk, bike, or take public transit to work. Not only is this a far greener option, but it better provides for the physical, mental, and social well-being of the workers, and this in turn is good for business and the economy.
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