In America, roughly three-fourths of all commuters do it alone, by car, each and every day on their way to and from work. This statistic can be attributed to several causes, including America’s long-time love affair with car culture and the sheer size of the country. More than anywhere else, American commuters are living further and further away from their places of work, which is only extending their commute times. With every single commuter driving their own car, this also leads to congested roads and, as stated before, even longer commutes. But it isn’t all bad news for commuters in America, because trends can change and the future holds commuting innovations.
The key part of commuting in the modern era is the kind of cars on the road. Increasingly people are opting for smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicles that can handle stop-and-go traffic. When interstates are congested with commuters, being able to conserve fuel and money in deadlock scenarios is the most important feature. Hybrids and electric cars are making a rise as popular commuter cars for their fuel efficiency and low jerking on stops. Those working white collar or other low manual labor-intensive jobs aren’t put off by smaller vehicles, making suburb to city commutes less grueling and smoother rides.
Because of how large and separated the United States is, American have wildly different experiences with public transit in their cities. New York City has some of the most comprehensive subway, bus, and train routes in nation. Public transit, in order to be effective, needs far-reaching infrastructure and reliability. As long as the trains run with relative regularity and the buses are timely, people are much more likely to eschew driving to work in favor of cheaper, more environmentally friendly public transit. However, places like New York also suffer from major congestion because of their incredibly high populations, eventually making subway trains and buses the only option for timely transit in the city. Plenty of people don’t have the option of not taking the bus on their commute, making comprehensive public transit systems all the more important in ensuring a productive and consistent workforce.
One of the biggest innovations in cutting down on traffic congestion in commuting is the advent of the high-occupancy vehicle lane that began in the late 1970s and early 1980s. To encourage drivers to carpool, many states have created special lanes on important highways that are only accessible to vehicles with more than one occupant. HOV lanes work in a twofold way: they reduce the number of cars on the road by encouraging drivers to carpool, and they separate cars from the larger traffic, also reducing the number of cars there. While HOV lanes aren’t new concepts to 2018, some states are also testing out tolled versions of the lane. While normal HOV users will not be billed, those riding alone have the opportunity to use the HOV lane at a small fee for the road’s upkeep, effectively thinning traffic even further by distributing it over more lanes.
While not strictly for commuter use, many find themselves spend excessive amount of commuting time on toll roads, some of which is dedicated to the stop at a toll booth. Most major highways have opted out of these methods or at the very least included other options that don’t slow the flow of traffic as much. Self-service toll booths are among these, but the more common in today’s increasingly technologic world are EZ Pass and pay-by-plate toll paying methods. Rather than forcing a slow or a stop to pay, cameras and other detection installations read and charge commuters as they enter the toll road by identifying their EZ Pass or license plate number, billing them by mail at a later date.
At the other end of the commuter spectrum are those that have completely thrown off reliance on motor vehicles. While other non-car and non-train commuting is available, plenty of Americans simply walk or bike to work on a regular basis. This can be a strictly seasonal thing, however, as sunny 20-minute bike rides in mid-May can easily turn unbearably cold in January. The more adamant bike riders will tough out the cold, but ice and snow can make biking dangerous, so it’s not an expanding commuting option for everyone, but electric bikes are making cycling to work more accessible to Americans.
American commuting comes in many shapes and forms, but is mostly subject to your location. With commutes slowly reaching over half an hour, understanding how and why they’re growing is a great way to improve on it. When the average commuter is privy to tips and tricks on how to make their grueling daily commute less so, the roads become a less exhausting chore. Americans have always had a love of fast cars and the open road, and it’s a shame to see it constrained by t