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321 Worst Commute 2010-12-17

traffic jam game

The Tennessean recently ran an article on Nashville's commute. Oddly enough, CEOs for Cities ranked Nashville as the city in the United States with the worst commute. How can Nashville be worse than Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, Washington DC, Atlanta, and New York? The study did not say that Nashville had the worst traffic congestion; but the worst commute. It seems that people like to work in Nashville; but they do not want to live there.

In my 25 or so years of living in Nashville I have been astonished by how many folks live far, far away from town and commute. A few of the excuses I have heard...

  • The houses are cheaper. I can buy more house for the same amount of money and only have to drive fifteen minutes longer - each way, if the traffic is not bad.
  • The taxes are less. Of course I have less services, run up the miles on my car, and pay more gas taxes; but I do not pay as much property tax.
  • Recreation areas are near. I have to drive to work; but I live close to my favorite recreation areas.
  • I went to school there, I like the small town. I drive further so that I can still have that small town lifestyle, minus the hours of commuting time each day.
  • I have to live near my family. I don't have to pay for a babysitter.

Living in the city and working out of the house has made me a happier person. I no longer have to spent 45 minutes to an hour in the vehicle for what should have been a fifteen minutes drive. Most places I go, I can travel by walking or bicycling. Most things I need are within two miles of the house. The closeness makes for a simpler lifestyle.

In contrast a government worker I met a few years back, reported to an office in the Metro Center of Nashville; but he lived 80 plus miles away in Cookeville. He thought the commute was logical. After going to school in Cookeville, he wanted to live there; even if he had to work in Nashville. His life hinged on how to quicken the commute.

CEOs for Cities promotes "viewing transportation together with land use planning." They emphasize not just adding lanes for traffic but making sustainable communities where the residents can work, shop, and play.

There are many obstacles for the planners to overcome including affordable housing, good schools, and affordable stores and services. But one thing we know for sure, that the uncontrolled sprawl that we currently practice is not a solution for growing sustainable communities.

Happy commuter trails.


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