Commuting as you’ve never seen it before


The economics of commuting


Sometimes even millionaires like Bruce Wayne need to take public transport.

Except that when Bruce needs to get to work he takes the Batmobile: an expensive piece of kit that traverses the crowded streets of Gotham City like a hot knife through butter. It looks to me like he’s merely off to a party right now.

An Institute of Fiscal Studies report from 2000 showed, unsurprisingly, that the cost of public transport had risen over the last 25 years but also that, by and large, people were spending a greater proportion of their household income on private rather than public transport.

However, the report does not differentiate between the general cost of travel and cost of travel for the purpose of getting to work.

I think this is a mistake.

For the vast majority of people with full or part-time jobs, the balance of scale between where to live, where to work, how much it costs and how much time it takes each day/week to get there, is not a conscious decision, it is arrived at through circumstance.

A far more useful assessment of what the modern UK household spends on travel would break it down by travel that people choose to undertake and travel that necessitates the budget in the first place. My feeling is that the economics of commuting in urban areas costs more than it is worth…

Space to breathe


What is it about commuting that we allow ourselves to occupy space – or lack thereof – that we would normally balk at?

A friend commented the other day that riding the bus rather than the tube, because of yet another strike, felt no more safe since she was wedged against the window with all manner of humanity between her and the exit.

Why do we subject ourselves to very very close proximity to strangers; enough sometimes to count hairs in nostrils and measure – with handy calipers – pore size and likelihood of diabetes?

When people travel in the bible there is mention of custom and mores, of social interaction, but these are journeys of days, weeks and months duration, not the hour it takes to traverse the Thames.

At what point did we decide that allowing ourselves no space to breathe was a constant and not a variable?