The Washington Post

Long-distance commutes stress family life

Anybody else notice a nice breeze coming through the car window this morning? Did you get a seat on Metro? The heat may be a killer, but the upside of summer in the region is how easy commutes become.

(Reed Saxon/Associated Press)

Before any of us gets lulled into this summery illusion, it’s worth considering a new disturbing study on commuting. It offers some bracing reasons for all of us to think more critically about the costs of our usual slog.

The study, released last week by Sweden’s Umea University, followed more than two million married or partnered Swedes. It found that long-distance commutes of 45 minutes or more put so much pressure on family and home life that those commuting couples were more likely to separate, a full 40 percent more likely to separate.

The author suggested the longer commutes were stressful on family life for several reasons, including the extra child care burden often placed on the non-commuter (usually the mother) and how longer commutes can reinforce gender stereotypes.

What’s particularly interesting to me about this study is how analogous its basic facts are to our region.

Plenty of us endure commutes of 45 minutes or more. Plus, the geographical area examined, like our own, has an expanding job market.

Yes, many commuters are hustling into D.C., but many others are also struggling to get to Rockville or Fairfax.

My colleague Kafia A. Hosh’s story today is a good example of how one of these business hubs, Tysons Corner, doesn’t have nearly enough housing options. Come September, Alexandria will become another hub as the Pentagon plans to start transferring 6,400 defense workers there,

In other words, the region’s commutes are likely to only get longer, especially once the summer heat breaks. How will you and your family cope? Is this study reflective of your experience?



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