Residential areas called suburbs are built around cities’ borders. Likewise, industrial areas and offices where pushed even farther and are usually built in the middle of nowhere, since those lands are cheaper. The average family’s quality of life improved substantially (not much in these last years) and each family now owns a house and at least one car.
Everyone lives away from work and everyday there’s an exodus of people from home to work and back again. The total costs of commuting are huge and diverse (e.g. time, energy, quality of life, productivity, sustainability).
Electrical cars? They are efficient and they don’t consume fossil fuels but they’re still too expensive for the average family. Moreover, it would only mitigate the problem on the short term. You would end up with less CO2 emissions, but the roads would still be packed with the same number of frustrated drivers going from home to work.
Mass transportation? A better solution as a whole and more affordable for families. Trains and subways are much faster than cars so you (the worker) would reduce your commuting time. Since you don’t have to drive your transportation you can effectively use that time to read the news or check your email. By doing so, when you get home you’ll have more free time for your family. However… subways only speed you up when you’re moving inside the city’s center; trains are scarce; and buses have unreliable timetables due to traffic jams.
The effective solution
One could solve the cause of this problem in three ways:
- Buy less, live more. Be more rational when you buy things – focus on usage and not on owning. Example: if you focus on owning you’ll buy a Ferrari but if you focus on usage you’ll buy just anything that will get you from A to B, maybe that’s not even a car. Doing so you’ll own just the stuff you really need, thus requiring less space to store it, thus having more money in your pocket. Use that money to experience life.
- Be free, rent it. With less stuff you need a smaller home. And why do you need a dining room? Just go out with your friends to a nice restaurant! Smaller homes lead to less energy consumption and more money savings. By renting you have the freedom to accept a better job or to look for a home closer to work. Maybe a better work.
- Get together. Since the real problem is the distance between home and work, it will only be solved when that distance is gone. By transforming urban areas into a mix of apartments, offices, stores, markets, and so on, everything is close to everything. Workers would take care of most of their daily affairs by walking or using non-motorized vehicles.
Following these three steps it’s possible to increase citizen’s quality of life, improve workers’ mobility, strengthen buyers’ purchasing power, rejuvenate historical cities, decrease traffic and lower cities’ energy consumption.
The case-study: me
I currently take about five minutes to reach my workplace… by foot! And let me tell you, the improvement in quality life is huge and at multiple levels.
But it wasn’t always like this. I don’t like driving the car on rush hours, neither worrying about where to park the car, neither paying for it. So I used public transports like everyone should. Previously I had to take one train and one bus to get to work. I would spend two hours per day on commuting, giving a total of 10 hours of life wasted per week.
Due to a series of fortunate events, I accepted a new job that’s now at walking distance from home. So now I don’t have to worry about transportation strikes, I no longer pay for a monthly ticket, I lunch healthier and cheaper at home, and I have enough time to visit the gym, write this blog and build my startup.
What about you? How much time do you take to work? Could you rent a house closer to work? Why not? How much would you save doing so?