Whether you're behind the wheel, carpooling with colleagues or spending your mornings strap-hanging on public transportation, commuting to work every day can be a drag. For more than 139 million Americans, however, that's exactly how mornings go – wake up, get ready, travel to work.
The average American commuter spends a little more than 26 minutes traveling to work every day, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. While that may not seem like much at first, that adds up to more than 200 hours, or nine days, per year. That much time commuting isn't just boring – other studies have shown it's also bad for your health.
These days we have our smartphones to keep us entertained, but a recent survey of nearly 1,000 U.S. workers in 10 major U.S. cities examined their commute, its impact on their lives and what they would give to end the daily grind.
Detesting the trip
Dissatisfaction with the daily drive is easy to understand. After all, who wants to spend hours of their week on an unproductive task before and after their 9-to-5? According to survey participants, nearly 49% of people said they hated their daily commute.
The feeling is even more prevalent in congested cities. Approximately 56% of respondents in Boston and San Francisco said they hated their commute. That latter group was particularly understandable, as Census data showed they spend more than 500 days of their lives on average traveling to and from work.
Other major cities showed similar signs of dissatisfaction. Roughly 54% of Chicaco respondents said they hated their commute, while Houston (50%) and New York City (49%) residents also said they were unhappy with the amount of time they spend traveling to and from work.
The sentiment was also higher among those who said they take public transportation to work. According to the survey, 52% of people who said they took the train to work said they hated doing so, while 48% said the same about driving.
Some of the biggest drivers of commuters' resentment were what respondents said they'd been giving up in order to get to work. Nearly 70% of women and 67% of men in busy cities said they had given up their free time because of their commute. Similarly, 66% of women and nearly 57% of men said they'd lost out on sleep, and nearly 51% of men said they'd missed out on family time because of their commute.
What workers would be willing to give up to end the commute
While most people are already giving up something to make their commute possible, researchers also wanted to know what people would be willing to give up or do to end the practice. From the mundane to the carnal, officials said respondents did not mince words when it came to what they would be willing to do.
Nearly 35% of respondents said they would give up social media for a year. How likely people were willing to delete Facebook or Twitter depended on the length of their commute and the mode of transportation, according to officials. People with commutes of 90 minutes or more were more than 49% as likely to take the plunge, versus those with an under-30-minute trip to the office. People who take the train or subway were 39% likely to cut themselves off, while those who drive (34%) and take the bus (34%) were less likely.
The second most common thing people said they would willingly give up to end their commutes was pornography. Just over 31% of respondents said they'd give up viewing adult material for a year. Just as the data showed with social media, people were most likely to end their consumption of porn if they commuted for 90 minutes or more (40%) and took the train (35%). Similarly, 10% of respondents said they would give up sex for a year.
Other things workers said they'd be willing to do to end their commutes included being single for a year (22%), giving up TV and streaming services for a year (18%), and eating a bowl of cockroaches (6%).
Permanent changes to end commutes
While giving something up for a year was a good start, researchers wondered what permanent actions people would be willing to take if it meant they didn't have to commute anymore. While people were significantly less likely to take these, the actions they had to choose from were definitely drastic.
Roughly 11% of people who travel between 60 and 89 minutes to work said they would get an unwanted tattoo. Approximately 12% of bus riders said they would take that trade, and 14% of Washington, D.C., commuters also said they'd get some ink to eliminate their daily ride.
Commuting is dreaded so much by some commuters that they would be willing to take a hit in pay if it meant not having to travel so much. More than 22% of respondents who travel more than 90 minutes to work said they were willing to give up a paycheck. Nearly 20% of commuters who take the bus or drive themselves also said they would take a hit in the wallet if it meant ending their commute.