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the commute

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When it comes to commuting, I have been spoiled.  When I was young I worked in a photo lab that was a 10 minute bike ride from my house.  When I taught in Chicago I literally taught in the building next to where I lived.  In the army I had a long commute (2 and a half hours each way) and I had one job in Israel that was 40 minutes away, but thank God, my current workplace is only a 20 minute walk from home.

Even though public transportation is fantastic in Israel, Israelis still have a long commute to work.  Last August there was an article in Ha’aretz that summed up our situation:

“Israelis… tend to spend a good deal of time traveling to and from work. As a consequence, they have little time left to be with their families, or for spiritual, sports or other activities.

Sixty-two percent of Israeli employees drive private cars to work. The remainder rely on public transportation (16 percent), walk (13 percent), or use transportation provided by their employers (6 percent); very few (3 percent) get to work on bicycles or motorcycles (according to data from the nonprofit organization Transport Today & Tomorrow). Around the world people spend, on average, 40 minutes getting to work. In Israel, however, the traffic jams along the Ayalon highway, Highway 4 and other routes leading to the central Dan region hold people up a minimum of one hour a day – in each direction.”

The tradeoffs are tremendous.  For many, living further away from work means more commute, which is less time for family, friends, or even a second job.  On the other hand, it may also mean a nicer neighborhood, cheaper housing, a better community, and better schools.  Alternatively, for those who want to live in the heart of it all, the higher living costs pay for time to spend with friends and family.  It all boils down to the basic principle:  time  = money (or in economic terms, everything has an opportunity cost).

Clearly this is a complicated issue where the ideal answer is to reach some sort of balance.  But no matter where you stand, the most important thing is to be aware of the tradeoff and understand not only what you sacrifice, but what you gain as well.

How does your commute affect your life?

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