The Census Bureau puts Philadelphia in the top 10 metro areas for mean commute time. About 12.5 percent of all workers had a commute of 60 minutes or more in 2011, compared with 8.1 percent in the nation as a whole.
But the raw numbers don’t take into account the emotional angst of traffic or a painfully slow bus.
For two more weeks, Lindsey Allen will commute from Center City Philadelphia to Lansdale, in Montgomery County.
For Allen: “The most tedious part of the train ride is when the train is going what seems like five miles an hour and you don’t really understand why we’re going slow or why we’ve stopped, and there’s just nowhere to go because you’re stuck on the train.”
Her hour and 20 minutes commute was one of the main reasons she started searching for her next job, which will be a 20 minute walk or even shorter bike ride from her apartment.
The number of people like Allen who are reverse-commuting is lower than the number of people coming to Philly for work.
European researchers coined the term, the “commuter’s paradox.” It describes the phenomenon that most people are more likely to choose a larger home farther from their jobs, even though length of commute ultimately tends to make them more unhappy.
“I wouldn’t have taken a job in the suburbs,” concludes Omar Guc, who has chosen to work in offices he can get to by bike from his Philadelphia home.
“Even though I have a car and I’m capable, I just prefer to ride my bike to work.”
Marc Zaharchuk knows the commute to and from Philadelphia is not the picnic it once was. He has driven from the Fairmount neighborhood to various jobs since 1967. Back then, he could do 70 mph on the Schuylkill Expressway, now known for its bumper-to-bumper traffic.
Today, he describes his strategy as intentionally relaxed.
“I don’t pay attention to the clock. I’m not a clock-watcher, so it takes away from the tedium and the stress.”
The most upbeat take comes from Shoshana Schiller, who speaks with the authority of a veteran Los Angeles commuter.
“While sometimes it can be frustrating, all I need to do is look out the window to be reminded that I actually have the most beautiful 9 mile commute in the world,” she writes by email.
“I drive past Independence Hall, City Hall, the LOVE sculpture, up the Parkway passing the astounding new Barnes, the Rodin, and the imposing PMA. Then up either Kelly or MLKing Drive, with rowers on the river, runners on the trail, georgeous old bridges, and incredible landscaping. How can I complain?”