We Commute. Is That Terrible?

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New York City and its suburbs are all abuzz today about Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Earth Day proposals. Among them is to slap a toll on drivers who dare to trek into Manhattan below 86th Street. (For my friends with the good fortune to live far, far away, most anyone who drives into town is heading below 86th Street.)

I care, because this affects me, or, rather, a member of my household.

My husband Chris is a freelance classical musician, meaning he drives into town almost every day, typically at odd hours inconvenient for mass transit. We live across the Hudson River, meaning he pays $6 to cross the George Washington Bridge. Gas lately costs about $2.60 a gallon in New Jersey, and even in our efficient Toyota Camry a tank doesn’t last long. He typically parks way uptown, only because it’s easier to find a free spot, then hoofs or subways it to gigs downtown. But sometimes he’ll shell out up to $20 for a lot in midtown if, say, he has a tight run to another gig out of town.

According to staffing company Kelly Services’ Global Workforce Index, he’s hardly alone:

Only 34% of the Americans surveyed prefer public transportation over their own vehicle for their daily commute. That’s about half the global average of 64% and the second-lowest rate among all countries surveyed (Turkey came in at 29%).

He’s not alone in his reasons, either:

The survey strongly suggests that it may be a lack of convenience and accessibility — not anti-environment attitudes — that is steering many Americans to their own wheels. Only 51% of those surveyed said they had the choice of public transportation, compared with a global average of 72% and as much as 90% or more in Hong Kong, Hungary, Indonesia and Russia.

Asked what single factor would encourage greater use of public transportation, the largest group of Americans (32%) cited more convenient access, followed by more frequent services (16%) and lower prices (10%). Concerns about safety and comfort ranked relatively low.

Globally, the biggest users of public transportation were in Asia. Indonesia topped the list with 93%, followed by Hong Kong (88%) and Singapore (86%).

I take the bus. Sometimes I take three modes of transit: car to bus, bus to subway, subway to office. I’d bike, but it’s just so dang far. Plus I don’t own a bike. Are we terrible?

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