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Shortening the long commute

September 01, 2006

Here's a bit of news that falls into the "no kidding" category: Marylanders have some of the longest commutes to work in the U.S. And, say state officials, they're getting longer.

According to The Associated Press, Marylanders spent 30.8 minutes per workday getting to work. Add in the trip home and you're spending an hour on the road each day.

Some people we know would be glad to spend "only" an hour a day getting back and forth to work.

State Transportation Secretary Robert Flanagan told The Baltimore Sun that the long commutes are, in effect, a "congestion tax."

Flanagan said citizens pay that tax in the form of wasted time, wear and tear on vehicles and wasted gasoline.

But Flanagan didn't really offer any potential solutions, except to note that the administration of Gov. Robert Ehrlich has pushed for road and mass-transit improvements.

But those options take years to bring to fruition. Can't the state get behind some other, quicker fixes?

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We suggest the following:

Improve service on the MARC train lines, which some have given up riding because of trains that were too late. Consistency is the key, because if riders can't depend on the railroad to get them to work on time, they'll find another way.

Encourage car-pooling. It adds time to the commute, yes, and there are insurance issues, but if enough people did it, the time spent picking up riders could be saved on the road.

Encourage employers to allow flexible schedules and telecommuting for workers, so that those who wanted to avoid rush hour by starting at 6 a.m. could do so. And if you can't trust an employee to work one day a week from home, should that person really be on the payroll?

Some fresh thinking could help to solve this problem.

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