It was decades ago that Atlanta earned its nickname as "The City Too Busy to Hate." Today, metro Atlanta has seized the mantle as the largest employment center in the southeast. If a region's success is defined by the horsepower of its economic engine, then certainly metro Atlanta is a HEMI. But as employees in search of work-life balance, can we truly say that quality of life for the region is firing on all cylinders when traffic congestion takes away so much of our time?
For many commuters, dealing with traffic delay has become another problem that we simply grow to tolerate. But how many of us have ever paused to really contemplate just how much time we're spending each day in gridlock? A regional survey found that the average roundtrip commute in metro Atlanta is 72 minutes each day -- more than one hour each day spent just getting to and from our place of employment.
This means over the course of a year (240 workdays), the average metro Atlanta commuter is forfeiting about 12 days (17,280 hours) worth of free time in order to slog through traffic. Does this finding surprise you? More importantly, does it make you want to change the situation?
Outside of listening to books on tape, it's hard to be productive (and safe) when you're behind the wheel. If you want to reclaim some of the time you're losing on your daily commute, the best decision is to let someone else do the driving. Read something from the passenger seat of a carpool. One group of carpoolers started a book club on wheels. Get work done while riding on the train. Or eliminate your commute time altogether and work from home when practical.
As much as we want to pretend otherwise, there are only 24 hours in the day. What would it mean to have some of that time back? An IBM commuter study conducted in 2008 found that 47.4% of Atlanta respondents indicated if their commute were significantly reduced, they would spend more time with friends and family – highest of all cities surveyed.
So, if you could free up some extra time by getting out of traffic, how would you use it? Where does time rank in terms of your pursuit of work-life balance? Chime in and share your thoughts.
We all have our workday morning rituals: rise and shine, get cleaned up and dressed, fire up the coffee maker, etc. But there’s a habit many of us get into in the colder months that is completely unnecessary. Idling your vehicle’s engine to “warm it up” for several minutes before you drive can actually diminish the engine’s performance, release pollution into the air and waste fuel.
Most of us grew up believing that idling a vehicle in cold conditions is good for the engine, but the truth is that it can wear down engine components, which are built to work more efficiently and produce fewer emissions in today’s cars than in the cars manufactured decades ago. The best way to warm up an engine today is to put it in drive and go.
Unnecessarily engine idling hurts air quality. The US Environmental Protection Agency advises that each minute of unnecessary vehicle engine idling can emit Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC), Nitrogen Oxides (NOx) and other pollutants into the air, to the tune of nearly 10 grams a minute in typical personal vehicles during cold weather.
In various consumer publications, the EPA has also advised that you’ll save fuel by turning the engine off and restarting it again if you expect to idle for more than 30 seconds. Something to think about next time you’re sitting at a red light or waiting in line at the drive-thru.
The Clean Air Campaign is enjoying success in getting carpool parents to shut off their engines while waiting for children at a Clean Air School. In almost every case, the decision to not idle becomes a reflex reaction when drivers learn that exhaust emissions can harm children (who breathe, on average, 50 percent more air per pound of body weight than adults).
Even employers with diesel engine fleet vehicles are getting in on the act, encouraging drivers to shut off their engines while waiting at the loading dock. For businesses, it’s the transportation equivalent of turning off the lights when the building is empty.
Reducing unnecessary vehicle engine idling can truly be no-brainer … when commuters have the presence of mind to remember to do it.
With the holidays now in the rear-view mirror, this is the time of year when many of us feel the weight of our financial choices. The bills start showing up from holiday expenses and we vow to spend less. In this tight economy, it’s all about stretching our dollars further, right? So, where can we flex our thrifty muscles and make the most impact? How about the daily commute?
How much does it cost the average commuter to drive to and from work each day? Cha-ching! The answer is 54 cents a mile, according to the American Automobile Association and their annual study, Your Driving Costs. That’s based on driving 15,000 miles a year. Now, take that 54 cents and multiply by 40 miles (the average daily roundtrip commute in metro Atlanta): you’re on the hook for nearly $22 each day you commute alone by car. More staggering than the cost of your daily café latte, huh? Factored into that figure are:
- maintenance costs
- car loan expenses
- license and registration expenses
Most of us would shrug our shoulders and say there’s nothing we can do about it: we need wheels to get around. But it’s not about giving up your car outright. It’s about using it less. Fewer miles on your car means savings in all the areas mentioned above with the likely exception of your car note and license/registration. But if you keep it in the driveway more often, you can reduce your insurance premiums and save on gas and maintenance.
For more Georgia commuters, carpooling, riding transit, teleworking or even bicycling could become the next great financial savings strategy during this recession. Take our commute calculator for a spin and see how much you could save over the course of this year by regularly using alternatives to driving alone. If you could save $500 or even $1,000, would you try it? If you could also earn $3 a day from The Clean Air Campaign, up to $100, would that be worth it? Think differently about how you can get ahead financially – and get out of traffic – this year.