The Way We Work: Super Commuters Go the Distance
For Labor Day, Patch examines why some professionals are willing to travel hundreds of miles every week for work.
At 5 a.m. three days a week, Mark Schofield wakes up in his home in Washington, DC, to prepare for his commute—to Philadelphia.
By 6:15 a.m., he grabs a cup of coffee from the Starbucks in Washington’s Union Station.
“The coffee there is stronger” than on Amtrak train, he says.
It’s no wonder he needs a potent blast of caffeine: Schofield spends more than 15 hours riding each week to Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station. From there he catches a local train to his job at Haverford College in Delaware County.
The commute adds roughly two and a half hours and 140 miles onto both ends of a 9-to-5 workday. His three-day commute, round-trip, totals 840 miles—roughly the distance between Washington and Orlando, FL.
For Schofield, and other “super commuters” like him, getting to work is a part-time job—one that doesn’t pay, but that is essential to keeping their full-time gig.
A recent report from New York University’s Rudin Center for Transportation found super commuters—defined as a person who works in the central part of one metropolitan area but commutes a long distance there using rail, bus, car or air from another—were on the rise in eight of the 10 largest metropolitan labor forces in the United States.
The center’s super commuter report concludes “the changing structure of the workplace, advances in telecommunications, and the global pattern of economic life have made the super-commuter a new force in transportation.”
Schofield says people who commute to jobs in DC from outside the Washington beltway have it worse than him because they have to sit in local traffic for hours.
“I think I have it better,” he said. “We have full professional lives and if that takes a little extra work from time to time, it's worth it.”
The average commute time for a U.S. worker between 2006 and 2010 was about 25 minutes. For public transportation commuters, the average time was 48 minutes, according to the 2010 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau.
Just 4 percent of Americans work in a different state from which they live. While long commutes are increasing, they are still far from the norm.
How long is your commute to work? Tell us in the comments.