Road trips

Don't let work commute become a beastly journey

Posted: Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Everyone has one. While some are shorter than others, it's a daily encounter we all have to face - some readily, some not so much. The daily commute is possibly the one bond everyday workers share with presidents and CEOs alike. But while gas prices continue to rise and property values steadily increase, when is it appropriate to move closer to your job or endure a lengthy commute?

"A household's choice of a place to live is based on many factors, including housing prices, the availability and quality of community amenities, such as schools, shopping, crime rate, the list goes on," explains Dr. Herbert Gishlick, professor of economics at Rider University in Lawrenceville, N.J. "Included in this set of variables would be both the explicit costs of commuting, which would include the gasoline costs or the fares on mass transit in those places where it is an option. Also included would be the opportunity costs of longer travel times that arise because of distance and/or congestion."

Gishlick adds that in two-salary households, the location of their home is most likely a compromised locale. But, whether you choose to make the move or stay put, one thing is for sure - there is no clear-cut answer.

"Gasoline costs are a relatively minor component in the total costs associated with this residential choice decision, given that most families would opt to own an auto regardless of where they live - except for some who live in large cities like New York or Chicago," says Gishlick. "A family paying $300,000 for a home in the suburbs - versus several million for a condo in New York - and driving a $30,000 SUV is probably not going to alter their choice of a place to live simply because they have to spend $2,000 more per year on gasoline."

Alternatively, some employees enjoy no commute time at all by doing business almost entirely electronically or by telecommuting. Mark Holoweiko, president of Stony Point Communications Inc. in Haslett, Mich., says for him, the advantages of working from home far outweigh the disadvantages.

"The way we've linked home offices in a 'virtual corporation' structure gives us capabilities and resources equal to those of much larger agencies whose personnel are grouped in a single office," he explains. "Beyond our core staff, which includes four veteran public relations counselors, a finance officer, and a business development specialist, we have a larger-than-usual creative network of subcontractors, so we can better match creative talent with client needs."

Though electronic communications are no substitute for face-to-face meetings, it's a sensible solution for many workers, says Holoweiko. However, if you're one of the many that have a commute to and from work, it's important to weigh all the options before making your decision.

- Lisa Radke

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