In an earlier life, I lived in the Dallas area. Moving to be near work sounds great, but it would not have been practical.
- I lived there for nine years. My average tenure was 18 months for each employer: Laid-off, right-sized, down-sized. Finding a new house for each new employer would have been costly.
- One employer was way the heck out by the airport. There were no houses within biking distance. Or not ones I could afford.
- Another employer had me relocate to a new client every few months. I saw a fair bit of the metro-mess that way.
- The last employer turned out to be the best: closed the office in Texas and relocated me to Wisconsin. My house is two miles away from the office. I still need a car: biking to work in the winter is just crazy.
'The plural of data is not anecdote' but .. sometimes you gotta just get a place to live and live with a commute that you know is going to change no matter what.
It gets even more complicated if you have a spouse/partner that also works. Lots of 2-professional families will never leave a huge metro, even if one of both of them could find better work in a different (but not the same different) city.
This is a frustration for me currently. My work is taking me closer to Palo Alto and San Francisco, her work is taking her closer to South San Jose. Our most recent change is that she is working on finishing a project in Los Gatos, while I just found some great work in Palo Alto.
We have compromised by living in the middle, but we both need to commute for about 30-40 minutes to our respective work places. I view this as an investment in our future. Right now we are both building careers which will make us much more money in the long run than the cost of commuting.
The thing about commuting by bike/transit in the Bay Area is that it is doable, largely because there is critical mass with regards to enough people doing it that the facilities exist. In many cities, you cannot bring a bike onto a rush hour train. Here? 2 bike cars per train, packed to capacity. This summer, I was commuting from SF to Stanford. 10-minute bike ride on one end, 5-minute bike ride on the other end, 37 minute train ride in the middle. Got plenty of reading/homework done and a bit of exercise.
He's talking about Caltrain. If you can do pure Caltrain + cycle it will be faster than driving during rush hour, often significantly so, except on the one day a month that someone is killed, on those days you're fucked but at least you have a good excuse.
> My house is two miles away from the office. I still need a car: biking to work in the winter is just crazy.
I grew up in Minneapolis, you should check out the bicycle commuting scene where you live. It varies by location, but in Minneapolis I was able to bicycle commute at least 4 days a week all winter long thanks to good plowing of bike paths, studded tires (only occasionally) and substituting a bus ride in right after significant snowfalls.
Winter bike commuting is not for everyone, but with the proper gear it's not as bad as it looks (less uncomfortable than getting in a cold car and waiting for it to warm up IMHO).
For me the biggest part was having a place to change. I commuted rain/snow/shine for almost 2 years straight in Chicago, but I was only able to make it happen because I had a gym membership in the building. Some places around here are (supposedly, so I hear) getting better about having more of a locker room style bathroom to allow for people who ride to work and not be a sweaty mess when they get there.
For about four years I did bicycle commuting year-round, rain or shine (no snow here). It was only possible because I had an indoor place to store my bike, a place to hang my clothes to dry, a place to change and wash up a bit, and space at work to store things like dry shoes and indoor jackets. This allowed me to just accept the weather and completely change between biking at work.
Now, I don't have that luxury. I don't have a good place to store things, I don't have a good changing/cleaning area. I'm dreading the rain.
"I was about (sic) to bicycle commute at least 4 days a week all winter long"
I think you also have to factor in safety. You will inevitably take chances over time and one of those chances could lead to an injury that keeps you from working or gives you lifelong pain. Either from a mistake you make or from someone in a car or bus. (Of course this can happen in dry weather as well...)
Statistically you can also use the historical weather info on http://www.wunderground.com to look over several years data for the winter.
The way I factor in safety is by choosing my routes. Minneapolis is wonderful for this. Depending where you live and work you may be able to bypass roads completely.
In any case though, beyond reasonable precautions such as helmets and defensive riding, I'm not going to run statistics to figure out the safest way to live my life. Bicycle commuting in general isn't something I consider an extreme risk. I'd certainly rather take my chances at injury doing a real activity than become an invalid at age 60 because I never got any exercise—because if I have to go to a gym to get exercise "safely" it ain't gonna happen.
Yes, when a collision does happen, a car is undoubtedly a better place to be, for the same reasons a tank would be better still. However, when it comes to avoiding a collision, in a car one has a whole lot more kinetic energy, and a whole lot less visibility and maneuverability.
Live in a metro area where there are laws that sidewalks have to be clear. I live in Boston and have been walking to work for the last 15 years including during the winter. The only exception is that I take the metro (or 'T' as it's called here) when it rains. It's very rare to have an impassible sidewalk, and when you do you just walk around it in the street for a few meters.
There are plenty of tech companies here within walking distance, lots of job options and an OK startup scene.
Also, don't have a car. I use Zipcar or taxis when necessary (maybe 10 times a year). Not having to pay for a car, insurance and parking saves a lot of money. That savings makes living in more expensive city apartments more easy to afford.
Not having to drive to work is my number one job perk, and living in a city is much more enjoyable (to me at least) than not.
Many employers are able to get away with their location decisions because as the original article states, most people do not prioritize commute mode & duration when they make major life decisions such as where to work and where to live. People have slowly grown accustomed to spending an hour a day in the car, mandatory, so the bar is very low here.
Further, government subsidization of sprawl and predatory suburban towns tend to push buyers towards new construction in exurban areas along interstates. Employers that do attempt to locate close to employees end up chasing the single-family households out to the outskirts, right into a dead end where then everyone must drive. Employers should locate in sustainable, dense, transit-friendly neighborhoods, ultimately giving their employees a choice.
Employers should locate in sustainable, dense, transit-friendly neighborhoods
They should, I guess.
* Rent is going to be steep in a place like that. I worked for a concern that took space in a very nice office building. Wood paneling! We had a walled lawn with trees outside. Offices, not cubes. Rent was far more than the generic building across the street.
It was great until we had to cut costs when the economy tanked. I prefer the cheap space, beige cubes and a job as opposed to laying folks off.
* Not all employers can do that. Your average dense transit-friendly neighborhood is not going to take kindly to an electronics concern opening up 100,000 sq/ft of manufacturing space, for example.
Rent is only steep because the supply far outstrips the demand for these neighborhoods. The government heavily subsidizes the incentives that make low density so economically attractive, skewing the construction and real estate industries towards those ends, even with the high demand. It's much cheaper to deliver services such as utilities and police/fire protection to high density areas, but low density areas pay the same rates and taxes. It gets even worse when predatory, independent suburban cities cherry-pick (thru zoning regulations) affluent households, offering them lower taxes and supposedly better services, which in turn further hollows out the urban areas, exacerbating existing problems.
Industry took place at the center of the city alongside professional jobs. It's only relatively recently that it's been economical to locate distribution & light industrial jobs in dedicated, industrial zoned areas, now that workers have been conditioned to agree to subsidize the costs of cheap land. Further, local governments agree to extend infrastructure to these places almost exclusively for the benefit of these corporations.
Industry took place at the center of the city alongside professional jobs. It's only relatively recently that it's been economical to locate distribution & light industrial jobs in dedicated, industrial zoned areas,
We put industry in dedicated areas because living next to a factory that runs 24/7 is unpleasant.