By John Cichowski
Whether it’s by car, bus, or rail, North Jersey road warriors rarely speak lovingly about their long, bumper-to-bumper, pothole-dodging trips to work. But count commuters like West Milford’s Alan Tlusty as one of the exceptions.
“The money’s good, and the people are exciting and diverse,” said the remodeling contractor. “I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
Tlusty belongs to a tiny, hardy minority of “mega-commuters,” a brand-new U.S. Census Bureau term for workers who spend at least 90 minutes and 50 miles commuting to work each day.
In one of these categories — commuting time — agency bean-counters disclosed Tuesday that full-time workers in the New York-North Jersey-Long Island region have more of these marathoners — 183,278 — than anyplace else in the country. And mega-commuters account for 1.9% of all commuters in the region, more than any other metropolitan area except the San Francisco Bay region, which has 2.06%. The national average is less than 1%.
None of that should be too surprising.
Jobs tend to pay more in big urban centers, and many of the people who fill these positions prefer to live in suburbs that are theoretically accessible via toll roads and interstates. But traffic in densely populated counties, such as Bergen, Passaic, Hudson, and Morris, can slow down enough to add as much as four hours to a work day.
For many, like Steve Schimpf, his “extreme commute” from Wayne — 90 minutes but a bit less than 50 miles — was torture.
“It was ugly, miserable, and expensive,” said Schimpf, who eventually traded in his Wall Street job for a position closer to home that allowed him time “to have more of a personal life.”
Moving closer to the workplace can be impractical, though, because real estate gets pricey closer to the city. For Mount Arlington’s Conrad Macina, a 90-minute/50-mile mega-commuter, his Manhattan job in Internet technology took its toll.
“What I missed most were the plays, concerts, ball games, teacher conferences, and such,” said the father of three as he recalled “more than one night sleeping on a conference table and using foam packing material as a pillow … when I missed that last train or bus” home.
These super trips are made by a relatively small group — just 587,000 commuters nationwide, according to the census report that examined longer-than-usual commutes for the first time. Entitled “Mega Commuters in the U.S.,” it analyzed five years of feedback from full-time workers who responded to surveys through 2010.
Besides putting the San Francisco and New York regions at the top of its list for travel time, the report said 1.89% of the Washington, D.C.-Arlington-Alexandria, Va. region and 1.4% of the Trenton-Ewing area also qualified as “extreme commuting” regions, just ahead of the Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana area, at 1.25%.
The San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont region was one of the few regions to qualify in both time and distance categories.
Nationally, mega-commuters average two hours to travel 166 miles, a figure that’s about five times the national average for traditional, shorter commutes. Roughly half of the mega-commuters leave home before 6 a.m. to take advantage of lighter traffic. More than two-thirds drive alone, but the report said they’re more likely than traditional commuters to use trains or car pools.
By contrast, traditional one-way commutes average 25.5 minutes nationally. Those living in Manhattan average 30.4 minutes, according to the report, even though 21% walk to work and 59% use public transportation, mainly subways.
For some, subways — especially after a long train ride — resemble the kind of torture that should be reserved only for sardines.
“I was pushed literally with my face against the glass with no possibility of moving till I got to my destination,” Schimpf recalled.
But for Mike Cervine of Clifton, the real torture was driving to and from work in North Jersey.
“I’d arrive frenzied — and come home the same way,” he said.
Then his company moved to Manhattan and he traded his daily road trip for an NJ Transit train ride to the city.
“I could read, study, sleep, talk — even play pinochle!” he said.
Unlike Cervine, mega-commuter Alan Tlusty goes to work via bus. But he, too, doesn’t complain about the time (90 minutes) or the distance (52 minutes) required to reach Manhattan.
One reason: Unlike the car, his quiet ride isn’t disrupted by phone calls, which are banned on the bus.
“Talk on a cell phone? If someone tries that, you ought to see the reaction,” he said. Instead, “I get a little extra shut-eye.”
Originally published by Email: email@example.com Blog: northjersey.com/roadblog.
(c) 2013 Record, The; Bergen County, N.J.. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.
A service of YellowBrix, Inc.