The amount of people who want to drive to work is dropping while the people wanting to take transit is increasing. This is happening despite of 100 years of car-focused urban planing in North America. Companies are finding that if they want to attract smart and talented people then they need to locate themselves along transit lines and not highways. This is a very good sign for a future where getting around is more efficient than today’s selfish car culture.
So instead of having 97 percent of McDonald’s corporate employees commuting to work with each of them alone in a car, Malec says, “right now, we have I think around 90 percent of our folks are arriving in a nonautomobile fashion.”
Chicago isn’t the only region experiencing this business boom along transit lines. From Seattle to St. Louis and Minneapolis to Atlanta, studies show that companies are relocating to be near transit lines, as they seek to attract workers, especially millennials, who prefer living in more urban areas and increasingly don’t want the long, driving commutes of their parents’ generation.
“Talent is choosing to ride transit,” says Audrey Wennink, director of transportation at Chicago’s Metropolitan Planning Council, a regional nonprofit research and advocacy organization on urban issues, and co-author of a new study indicating that more and more businesses want to be located close to rail and bus stations.
Long commutes feel like a slog, but there are benefits to sitting on a train and staring out the window everyday. Londoners have some of the longest commutes in Europe which has led to some neat research into the benefits of these long and regular journeys. On the way to and from work people are able to contemplate their work-life and have a clear separation between work and home. Another, more obvious, benefit is that people who take public transit to work are healthier than those who drive.
To find out more, Richard Patterson at Imperial College London analysed detailed data from the English National Travel Survey, allowing him to determine exactly how much exercise the average commuter gleans from their daily journey. He found that roughly a third of public transport commuters met the government’s recommendations of 30-minutes exercise a day, through their commute alone.
Patterson points out that governments could consider these benefits when they decide their funding for transport networks, since encouraging people to give up their cars and take a train or bus could end up having a real effect on public health. In the UK, for instance, he calculates that a 10% increase in the use of public transport could result in 1.2 million more people reaching the recommended levels of physical activity. “Some decisions, which may not seem to have much to do with health, can have these knock-on effects for people’s wellbeing,” he says.
Many drivers think that gas tax (or their car-related taxes in general) more than cover the costs of infrastructure of cars. The reality is quite the opposite. People who don’t drive subsidize those who do. In terms of infrastructure itself we have spent more money on roads than on other forms of transit.
This combination of policy and infrastructure has created societies that use cars too much and in dangerous ways. The costs of pollution from cars is shared by everyone and the land used for cars (highways, parking lots, etc.) means that land can’t be used for other purposes. That’s just two ways that society subsidizes car ownership. We all pay for drivers to drive. We should stop.
Driving is a choice, and provided that drivers pay all the costs associated with making that choice, there’s little reason to object to that. After all, very few people think that a zero car world is one that makes a lot of sense. Low-car makes much more sense that non-car as a policy talking point. How do we get people to make these choices. There’s an analogy here to alcohol. We tried prohibition in the twenties. It was moral absolutism, zero tolerance. Alcohol in any amount was evil. That didn’t work.
When we experienced the epidemic of drunk driving, we didn’t go back to prohibition. Instead, we raised penalties to make drivers more responsible, set tougher limits on blood alcohol content, and put more money into enforcement. People still drink—but there’s a different level of understanding of responsibility and consequences, and fewer people drive drunk.
In Toronto, the car rules the road so much so that the city is fine with non-driver (that’s everyone) deaths, and the city won’t do much to stop drivers from killing. Sadly, Toronto isn’t a unique case. In far too many places bicycling infrastructure is an afterthought that plays second fiddle to cars. Despite this lack of support for safety, riding a bike is still the least dangerous way to get around.
Bicycling is so safe that you can actually lengthen your lifetime by riding! Mr Money Moustache ran the numbers and found out that statistically no matter where you live you’ll live longer by riding a bike! So get out there and get on a bike and remember the more people out there commuting via bicycle the safer the streets!
Riding a bike is not more dangerous than driving a car. In fact, it is much, much safer:
Under even the most pessimistic of assumptions:
- Net effect of driving a car at 65mph for one hour: Dying 20 minutes sooner. (18 seconds of life lost per mile)
- Net effect of riding a bike at 12mph for one hour: Living 2 hours and 36 minutes longer (about 13 minutes of life gained per mile)
Stanford University’s Calming Technology Lab has found evidence to support what most commuter cyclists already know: riding a bike to work instead of driving a car lowers one’s stress. Not only are you improving your own mental health you’ll be consuming less gas and save a lot of money while getting physically fit.
There is no better day than today to start riding your bike to work.
“It’s particularly interesting to see that many people don’t transition back into the home after a long day of work very well. By biking to work we know that the physical nature of cycling and physical exertion will engender a more calm and focused state of mind. So while being good for us physically, we also see lots of psychological and emotional benefits.”