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Extreme Commuting Becoming More Common In US


In the United States there are almost 3.5 million "extreme commuters," who travel more than 90 minutes to work, one way. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, this is the fastest-growing group of commuters in America, despite rising gasoline prices and congested highways.

For Rick Millward every second counts. "Time waits for no man or woman and time you spend on the road in a car is definitely wasted."

Rick Millward works as an administrator at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center located on the outskirts of Washington, DC. Everyday promptly at four thirty in the afternoon, he meets his car pool partner Amy Dean and begins the long journey to his home in Myersville, Maryland, over 80 kilometers, and on a good day over 90 minutes away.

Millward says it depends on how you look at it. "There are two schools of thought for commuting. One is keep moving no matter what because when you are sitting in traffic, it drives you crazy. Me, time is my most valuable commodity. And whatever possible, I like the direct route even though I may not be moving the whole time."

Rick Millward and Amy Dean are part of a fast growing segment of American society called extreme commuters. Between 1990 and 2000, there was a 95 percent increase in the number of people who have a commute of 90 minutes or more.

Nicholas Ramfos, vice president of the Association For Commuter Transportation says this trend is having a negative the impact in the workplace.

"There is a price. There have been studies that show those folk to be less productive. You spend more time once you get into the office discussing how horrible your commute was."

As a general rule, the farther out in the suburbs you live, the lower the housing prices.

So like most extreme commuters Rick Millward endures the stress of commuting in exchange for living the American dream, an affordable home in a quiet, safe community. "Time versus what I would call the quality of life. Where I live. How much I enjoy that, and the affordability of the life. Yes, you pay more for gas to travel from here but generally, and when I first moved here it was certainly true, you can get more for your money."

Extreme commuters also sacrifice time with family. And if the price of gasoline continues to rise, the long commute may no longer make economic sense.

Like health insurance, Nicholas Ramfos says employers may have to start offering increased commuter benefits like flexible hours, work-from-home programs and even provide affordable housing to maintain a quality workforce.

"Many employers in the past, their attitude has been, well is it really my responsibility in terms of how my employee gets to work? Well from a recruitment and retention standpoint that may be something that employers may want to start taking a look at."

Millward adds, "You get the little accordion stuff, things start and things stop."

But for now, Rick Millward and other extreme commuters have little choice but to sit back and try to enjoy the ride.

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