When I worked in Manhattan, I spent the extra $1,000/mo. to live within a couple blocks of work, rather than a 45-min commute away off in Brooklyn like most people I knew. It's expensive to live next to work.
But here's the thing: I always felt guilty about it. That it was "unnecessary" money to spend, even though I had it. That it was irresponsible.
However, I knew from (painful) experience it was still the rational thing to do. Once you subtract time spent sleeping, at work, and "maintenance" (shower, tidying, etc.) you really only have maybe 5 hours a day of personal time max. If you commute 45 min each way... that's only 3.5 hours. And when you factor in that you need a couple hours to relax, eat dinner, etc. -- that's the difference between having time left over for a rewarding hobby or not, which qualitatively changes your life in a fundamental way, and keeps you sane at work. Whether it's going to the gym regularly, reading books, doing yoga or dance, whatever it is.
But it's still so hard to mentally justify paying such a premium for your own leisure time. It's really easy to tell yourself, no -- I'll save money, commute, and I'll still manage to find the time, it'll be enough... because you're optimistic you can have it all. But you can't. You'll lose your hobby or sleep or your happiness.
I spent a hellish couple of years in London living in a pleasant area but commuting to and from a startup near the centre, and since then I've been remote-only.
There are other trade-offs, but it's hard to beat for low stress levels and free time.
Commuting sucks, but so does living in a city. It's noisy and dirty and crowded. You can't own your own property and crime is much much more prevalent.
Owning a nice, quiet house in a nice neighborhood without the commute is just heaven, honestly. At least for me anyway.
I’d save time, but then I’d spend it driving into the city, anyway, to do most of the things I want to do.
but if you feel like that, consider if you're living in the "right" place for this. "remote" could mean instead of living in san francisco, living in a small town far away. or heck, somewhere in europe, where I live in the very city center on a student budget.
Social isolation is by far the worst part of it. We are social animals, and phone calls and voip meetings actually don’t cut it. If you (well At least if I) spend much time physically alone, I am lonely.
This causes all sorts of little problems. Including strain on your romantic relationships, as your SO becomes more and more central to your social world. As you can imagine, this is a recipe for countless problems. A kind of inertia appears, which makes it less and less appealing to leave the house. You want to see people less. You end up mixing up your work and leisure time (why are you working at 8pm? Why are you playing computer games at 10am? It doesn’t matter that’s why.)
There are ways to mitigate these of course. But they’re mostly just tricks. Like working in a coffee shop, or going for a walk in the mornings.
I think it comes down to the type of person you are. If you can get up every day, and crush work completely alone for a few hours, then use your extra leisure time alone productively, then keep an active social life (one good enough to compensate for the hours spent alone at home every day), then there are no trade offs. I am not. I’m easily distracted, I procrastinate, and mostly couldn’t be bothered to go out all the time to meet people.
Working remotely is fantastic from a cost perspective but it is very isolating and lonely. It's hard to communicate with the rest of the team, and requires specific strategies to make things work.
It's easy to maintain discipline and inertia when you're in the office, and can't fuck off to your bedroom to nap or play with the Nintendo Switch.
Still a better choice, IMO, but absolutely has downsides, and I'd consider going back to in-person office work for the right role.
I've been working remote-only for a couple of months now and did rather well on those parts: Doing sports in the morning, focussed working without slacking off - luckily, I can enter „work mode” as soon as I start my timer - and mostly spending the evening with friends or my SO.
However, I'm still feeling a growing sense of disconnectedness from my work and my colleagues. The feeling of „we're a team and building this together” over time changes into „annoying computer tells me to X”. We're having regular (video)calls, but the lack of social context definitely has a negative impact. 2-3 days of remote work would be optimal.
After briefly experiencing the 101 commute in bay area very early in my career, I decided I wasn't going to do it. Since then I've made a point to live close to work - which has affected both where I've lived and where I've worked, as I also decided I wasn't willing to live close to an office park in the middle of nowhere to make this work.
No regrets at all, although it has always involved some expense. I'm very aware I have been lucky in the options I've had though, this can be very difficult to arrange in some situations.
As an introvert with learned emotional intelligence, I find it draining dealing with people all day and I for the most part liked the people I worked with.
When I worked less than 15 minutes away from work, I missed the down time. Especially since I had just gotten married, lived in an apartment and wasn’t use to coming home to three other people - wife and two (step)sons — and I love my family.
Now that we live in a much larger house, and my wife knows me well enough not to take it personally when so just want some alone time in our home gym, it’s better.
A distance of merely 5 miles can take rent in Austin from $2000 to north of $3500. San Diego and LA have similar (and worse!) gradients in places.
The problem is your rent competition is 4 tech bros rooming together. That's an awful lot of money pushing the prices up.
This was when SH 45 first opened up, so things hadn't yet built up around it to clog it up. Not sure what traffic looks like these days.
Er... two. Now get off my lawn.
Throwing on some music or a podcast helps me unwind while the exercise does its thing to clear my head. I also save 100+ bucks a month on a transit pass too, though my rent increase is not as bad as 1000+ a month, I feel in your case it is definitely worthwhile.
My understanding of communing was people commute for longer for a 'better' house, but don't realise a 'better' house doesn't create happiness as much as a shorter commute.
I love spending time with my wife, but I’m also an introvert who really craves having my own space. Even when my parents come up and visit it isn’t intrusive since we have a guest suite downstairs.
Also the “better home” also means a better school district.
I found this very interesting, given the fact that I know a lot of people who work in major cities but live outside the city for financial purposes. Might make more sense to bite the bullet and pay high rent to live next to your workplace.
This is complicated for couples though, because it is hard for you and your partner to find employment in the same part of a city. So one of you will probably have to make a sacrifice.
I would be very interested in how remote work figures into all of this. Does the interaction with humans outweigh the benefits of being able to roll out of bed and be at the office?
But, with a partner and kids, commuting becomes a greater good sacrifice. Depending on work location, a 60 minutes commute can mean a bigger house, better neighborhood and college savings.
Commuting affects kids too, they get less time with a more exhausted, stressed parent. Compromises are harder to make with five people.
This is one of the reasons urban architecture, with an eye to the economics of it all, are important. Architects tend to swim in abstract water. But, when they say things like "how people relate to and occupy their built environemt," I like to think they mean things like "*How people to get to work, and how awful it is."
IMO, these are exactly the kinds of measures we should have have governments, rather than gdp. Commute times/pleasantness, housing-share of income, etc.
For a city, knocking 10% off average commute time is on par with reducing crime rates or similar.
Yeah, I think this may be an under-appreciated factor. Also the cost and misery of moving house when you change jobs.
I wonder if this harrowing 911 call sheds some light on this question:
Depends on the personality of the person and the health of the rest of their social life.
It’s like longing for the interaction offered by a long flight. Chat with your neighbor, get on with your day.
Why not have social interaction with people you look forward to interacting with? (Does anyone go to the office to hang out on their day off?)
This mixing of units is enough to call the whole paper into question. 60 minutes - by what mode. There is no reason you can't walk 60 minutes to work even though I don't know of anybody who does.
I have walked to work before, it took me about 40 minutes. I have also drove the same distance, takes about 12. I can take the bus which takes about 30 minutes (including 10 minutes walking to/from the stop). A helicopter could probably do it in 5. You can imagine other ways I could get to work with different travel times (practical is not a requirement).
I'm farther away, at unicycle distance.
Moral of the story is look at your commute as the top factor determining your quality of life. Think well and hard about that extra 30-60-90 minutes because it means a bigger house and backyard.
The time waste, the money waste, the environmental waste.
I guess they got sold on the idea they can listen to a podcast on the way to the office...
It's important to think about what we do. Even if we are taken by the storm of life. Pause, and think about what you are accepting to put yourself through.
I pay the price of a 1-hour commute each way every day, but I live in the Sunset right by Golden Gate Park (imo one of the best urban parks in the country), and every night when I get home I have the peace of the trees, while still technically being in the city and having plenty of walkable restaurants, groceries, and services. I also get 850 square feet for the same price that many in worse areas of the city pay for 350, and on the weekends I'm already right by the park and the beach. Additionally my wife and I both feel safe walking around at night and frequently go for walks after dinner, and when we lived closer to downtown we couldn't really do that.
In my experience people (myself included) tend to mostly deal with what's near them when thinking about spending their free time. That means for folks living _in_ the city they rarely end up experiencing the parks and never get away from the crowds that create such a feeling of anonymity. I didn't even know what I was missing out on until I made the move, and despite my frustrations with my commute I wouldn't trade it back and neither would my wife.
I live in Cambridge MA, walking distance to the biotech capital of the world, and I can't relate to any of your listed downsides of city living except the astronomical rent.
Rent was indeed astronomical, but I could walk to work in the financial district in 15 minutes.
With my new place of work I pass through rolling hills, farms, vineyards, rivers, and by the time I get to the office I am delightfully refreshed and my heart is pumping.
When I was in London I would traverse the same distance, but loved weaving through the narrow traffic, sprinting up the small hills, passing over the river and then racing through central, fighting through the markets, and feeling absolutely elated by the time I got into the office.
For this reason alone I always place myself at least 15km from my work place. Its a nice transition between working mode and home mode, and its a good way to separate the two.
Plus it's easier to justify home office to the boss on those super treacherous days.
But hey, good thing you have a beautiful scenery on the way to the office. It's rarely the case for most commuters.
Wow, that's incredibly fortunate! I go up a bunch of urban hills in my old vehicle, people drive sub-optimally/selfishly often, and there's not ample parking so I park in a shady neighborhood to walk 3 minutes in to my office.
Due to increased volatility and concentration of places with sufficient income earning (and increasing) possibilities, this manifests itself as cities with lengthy commutes for all except the luckiest.
Edit: Also compounding this is that school quality is roughly a measurement of the income earning abilities or wealth of the children's parents. It's known to everyone that sending your child to a school with children who have lower income parents results in lower chances of success for your child. If you want to mitigate this, then your options are to send the child to a private school, which are very expensive in cities, or move sufficiently far away so that you are geographically too far from the children with lower income parents and so the public schools' children end up having parents that have similar earning potentials.
I'm more surprised by the surprise itself. For most, the better place to raise a family and the better place to work aren't near each other. Surely it is clear why the commute is an acceptable trade-off to optimize those other things.
It's important to think about why others do what they do instead of assuming it's irrational.
I have the luxury of taking a 1.5 hour ferry ride in the morning and evening. I sometimes alternate and use the train for a 50 minute commute. Regardless I always get a seat and read a book or work on my laptop. In fact most of my productive work gets done on the ferry. Work is for socialising.
Wouldn't trade the commute for a shorter walk to work.
Assuming one wants to spend time with family/friends/exercise, and wants to sleep 6 to 8 hours, I don't see anyway to make a long commute not be lost time. I consider commutes part of my work time, as I'm not free to do what I want. I'm paying with my commute time + work time to buy free time.
I currently live 15 min away from my job in Miami and pay less than $1k in rent. It is amazing being able to wake up at 8:30, dress and pack lunch and still get to work before 9am.
Most people here who have longer commutes are because they own homes and don't have the luxury of moving around like me, but then again, the own homes which is pretty hard in the cities I mentioned.
Honestly my first filter when job hunting is commute times and the price of rent within a 10 mile radius of the office.
Having had a 90 min commute at one point I realized that it just wasn't worth it unless you could have flexible hours to avoid rush hour and even then it's almost 900 minutes a week lost to "just" driving.
I hate commuting, but if my spouse's job preferences are in city A and mine are in city B, 50 miles from city A, commuting is the best possible option (vs taking inferior jobs or separating).
This is completely backwards. We should have minimum living space requirements within every work place. If you want to regulate things, regulate it well: No places to live, then no places to work. If there were 1 place to live within 500 ft for every 1 job, then we wouldn't have this situation where most of the population has to commute 2 hours every day polluting the planet with overly long commutes that could be 10 or 20 times closer. Imagine the reduction in c02 if people were traveling 20 times fewer miles every day.
The "Google bus" issue in SF certainly didn't make SF a company town, but it did raise the specter of how willing a large enough company can be to routing around a city's infrastructure rather than work with it, stratifying public transit services in complicated ways that caused a lot of real grief for non-Google employees, just as non-employees in many a company town would have had mobility issues.
What exactly are they supposed to do? Stage a violent revolt of the local government? They're a big company with a lot of money, but that doesn't give them control over the local politics, so there's only so much they can do about the transit situation. Public transit in America is notoriously horrible, and no single corporation could possibly fix it, so it makes perfect sense for them to hire some buses to help their employees commute faster. They're helping keep many, many cars off the road by putting people into buses, and yeah, it's unfortunate that non-Googlers can't use the buses, but if people want better public transit, then they should start voting for local politicians who will improve public transit. People don't want to do that just about anywhere in America, so this is what we get.
(That has its own issues in the entangling of corporate and political interests, of course, as there are no perfect solutions when capitalism is involved.)
They don't have to "fight" to pay for it, they just need to use tax money to do so. The problem is that voters don't want that. Voters are perfectly happy to massively subsidize infrastructure for cars (those roads aren't free), but they don't want to subsidize public transit, and claim that public transit should somehow survive on its own (even though roads don't).
>as there are no perfect solutions when capitalism is involved.
There's nothing "capitalistic" or "free market" when it comes to the road system in this country. It's purely socialism. Charge use-based tolls for every road driven on and things will change quickly.
The question I wrestle with: is it fair?
1. For living in a lower cost area, no. If I live in SF I benefit/pay a premium for living in a nicer area. That should have nothing to do with compensation (unless they are located in SF and need me close by).
2. For not having a commute, maybe. I think it is fair for a company to pay a premium to have someone onsite. But that premium should be the same whether I walk 5 mins to work or drive 50 miles.
If you were another company instead of an individual you would not be having this discussion with your employer.
Would they try to bring the price of IT equipment down, with the argument of a shorter delivery route, if they were doing business with a retail business close by their office?
For HR the best outcome is to get the best people possible for the lowest price possible.
The best outcome for you as an employee is to get the maximum compensation + benefits + bonuses for the least amount of your time/effort.
For the archetype factory employee, their value grows linearly with time spent working. For a knowledge worker the output of a small team of 10/20 people could generate orders of magnitude more, the time spent is not relevant what matters is the value adding output.
So if you want to think in terms of fairness don't frame it in terms of the 40 hours a week, frame it in terms of the profit generated or money saved as a direct result of your output.
As I pointed out here this is hard to do and no company does this. If you can find a way to quantify your value to the company, that's great. 90+% of the cases I've seen where people do it, they're making wild assumptions that no employer would buy, though.
> Would they try to bring the price of IT equipment down, with the argument of a shorter delivery route, if they were doing business with a retail business close by their office?
No, but they would bring the price down if they could buy it cheaper from a competitor. If you live in a low COL area, they could try to argue that they can find other employees in your area for whom they could pay less than what you demand, and those people would still get paid more than the average in that area.
There's a reason outsourced employees in other countries don't get paid as much as they do in the US. Do not expect that you can change that dynamic easily.
Of course, if you can demonstrate that it'll be hard for them to find a remote worker with your (perhaps rare) skills, then your argument would be more appealing to them.
I guess my belief that employers should pay for commute time of their employees wouldn't fly with them.
However, I think there are some good arguments to be made about where the employers choose to locate their offices.
A lot of jobs that pay decently aren't located in the outer boroughs. We could move closer to the city but we simply don't make enough and/or don't have the skills to make enough. Rents, especially near train stops are reaching 2 - 3k easily. Also, many jobs are still on the fence about letting more staff work remotely, although tech is changing this. Thus, we put up with crowds, delays and smelly train cars.
I hope this brings a bit more light into things.
Some things that cause me grief:
1. NYC's city income tax on top of federal and state tax
2. The competitive public school system that disadvantages many and doesn't appeal to my parental administration efforts either
3. The pay-or-wait-for everything kid-related -- 2s or 3s programs that ask for astronomical amounts of money
4. Swampy summer urban heat island
5. AIR quality that probably isn't as good as it could be. If you ever walk on Madison Ave. during morning or evening rush hour, you've inhaled the avenue-wide plume of diesel smoke that saturates the air
In some suburbs things flip in the other direction:
1. Public schools that are supported by high property taxes
2. Rather large fees for relatively shorter commutes --hundreds of dollars per month to commute 40 minutes to/from Grand Central or Penn
3. Lower income tax burden
I'm looking at houses in the suburbs now, and what's difficult to quantify is the level of happiness associated with gaining things like fresh air, extra space, a yard for kids to play and keep themselves busy, closer proximity to family (both sides), and etc.
I think there's lots of folks who positively and negatively value similar things and happily eat the commute time up (as me time, or personal time) in exchange for the some of the benefits I mentioned.
Exactly, which is why widening highways to alleviate congestion is a waste of time and money. More people will just move farther out, canceling out all the savings had by adding the extra lanes.
The rest of us suffer, in terms of increased environmental impact and ongoing infrastructure maintenance cost. We should not subsidize this behavior.
We widen it to 4 lanes. We get 7-10 years of reduced congestion that steadily gets worse until we are at the same level of congestion.
Casting aside that temporary reprieve, which in itself adds value, the carrying capacity even at current levels of congestion has doubled, do we've now opened up another Y number of people with the option to make that commute.
So when it's all said and done, the number of people that can make that commute has doubled, even if the time it takes remains the same.
Still a win in terms of opening up options and mobility. More trucks can make deliveries. More people can commute to work.
Do you have a source for that? How could you possibly know without knowing current distance and average speed?
Note that not dense is the important part of the above. If you are willing to allow dense development (which most zones in the US prohibit) everything changes.
Yep, this is the answer to it all: we need to build much more densely, and people need to get used to not having a big McMansion with a gigantic lawn.
I have a 40 minute work to work that passes by a bakery. Sometimes I take the bus which passes right by that same bakery. Sometimes I drive which passes by the same bakery. I have stopped in that bakery while driving, and while walking, it make no difference. In fact the car is more flexible because a 5 minute detour lets me stop by a supermarket that is an extra 15 minutes while walking. (the bus only comes every 30 minutes so stopping in the middle to run errands isn't practical even though it detours to that supermarket)
You pass by the bakery. You're not hungry… but it does look delicious. You go back, look through the windows again -- and decide you are hungry!
If you're in a car, you don't stroll around. You drive where you want to drive. Even discovering new things is hard since the people behind demand you don't slow down.
(this is loaded with personal experience and preference, I can perfectly understand this doesn't match yours.)
As a passenger, suddenly you become aware of all these objects and sights that you simply couldn't spare the time or attention to look at when busy in the driver's seat.
Fun recent anecdote, a coworker passed me in his car while I was walking to work, because of the time for him to park, we arrived at the coffee machine at the same time.
Hence the suburban movement in the last 50 years or so.
Here in the bay area, real estate in the farther areas of east bay (e.g., Livermore) have been in high demand as there has been talks of Bart expansion to Livermore.
As an example, I live relatively close to my office in the suburbs, and most days I walk ~50 minutes each way for my commute. I could drive it in 10-15, but my family has reduced from 2 to 1 cars this way (owning a car is expensive and a massive headache). I also spend far less time at the gym because I walk many miles per day just commuting, plus I feel fresher when I get to work. I can definitely say I am much more satisfied with this arrangement than if I was driving for the same duration. The major negative is less time at home with the family, which I admit is a challenge but one I've been willing to put up with for the other advantages.
Going meta, the inertial insistence on 'butts in the seat 5 days a week' needs to be disrupted. I know there are more startups and young companies these days that understand flex and telecommuting, however, this needs to flow into the large mass of old school companies somehow.
If we're able to weight correlations of different life parameters with life satisfaction, where is the "how cost-effectively to maximize your satisfaction according to statistics" guide?
All my coworkers commute 40+ minutes to have a larger house for their family and a slower pace of life than in the city.
This seems like pretty biased against commuting. Is it because everyone here is salty about having to commute to SF or Silicon Valley because rent is prohibitively expensive?
>People spend a lot of time commuting and often find it a burden. According to economics, the burden of commuting is chosen when compensated either on the labor or on the housing market so that individuals’ utility is equalized. However, in a direct test of this strong notion of equilibrium, we find that people with longer commuting time report systematically lower subjective well-being. Additional empirical analyses do not find institutional explanations of the empirical results that commuters systematically incur losses. We discuss several possibilities of an extended model of human behavior able to explain this ‘commuting paradox’.
Having a 40 minute commute entirely to myself to listen to anything I want to (or silence) is almost a sanity check for me.
Important for me are seating and no changes in public transport and by bike the route is important.
Is it ideal? No, is it worth it? Yes.
A self driving car if anything makes congestion worse: people will send their car back home for free parking thus using much more road space.
Judging by the number of people staring into their smartphones on the bus every time I ride, only a negligible minority of people would have that disadvantage.