How to improve a long commute
January 15, 2005 8:39 AM   Subscribe

Commuting: assuming that I can't move closer to work in the immediate future, and can't afford a luxury sedan, what are some things I can do to make my daily 2-hour (roundtrip) commute through mostly moderate traffic less draining, more bearable?
posted by mecran01 to Travel & Transportation (30 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Books on tape or music you can sing along to.
posted by duck at 8:43 AM on January 15, 2005

Response by poster: Additional variables:
  • noisy 88 vw golf
  • mp3s streamed to fm receiver via usb adapter (not great audio quality and speakers are semi-blown)
  • starting a carpool for a few days a week soon
  • have an ibook and noise reducing earphones, but feel like that may be unsafe.
  • considering either a new stereo or ipod
  • going to library for books on tape today.
  • already feel guilty enough for spitting in the face of New Urbanism, so please don't pile it on :)
  • Wife freaks at the mention of moving (we have moved 8 times in 10 years between school/work/etc.
  • Could maybe afford $6k car
  • Night glare driving me nuts--rural roads. But I don't have astigmatism or other serious ey probs other than being late 30's
  • Find myself getting increasingly pissed at other drivers. Starting to dress like Michael Douglas in that one movie.
  • do not own handguns or paintball markers
  • am willing to install titanium low rider scraper blocks if necessary.
  • do people still use cb radios? Basically, the commute is boring and frustrating, and stressful, and if I can't move I'd like to do something entertaining or useful with those two hours a day. Thanks for humoring me--this is a compendium of about three earlier related askme questions.

posted by mecran01 at 8:47 AM on January 15, 2005

Start slugging or get in a pool -read that book you've been puttin off
posted by Pressed Rat at 8:48 AM on January 15, 2005

Response by poster: I'm also considering parking five miles out from work and biking in the rest of the way. When it warms up. Currently I'm 25 miles from work.
posted by mecran01 at 8:50 AM on January 15, 2005

Can you adjust your work schedule so you can avoid having to go 25 mph the whole way?
posted by Saucy Intruder at 8:57 AM on January 15, 2005

Response by poster: I could probably shift to 6am/3pm return and bypass a lot of traffic, for 3 days week.

Has anyone done anything that has dramatically improved their commuting experience?
posted by mecran01 at 9:03 AM on January 15, 2005


Find ways not to dread the route. Modify a 65 degree vision tunnel into 270, it's amazing what you'll see. Find a great pair of driving gloves. Don't listen to broadcast. Bring along a small camera or voice recorder. Take a glass of water, not coffee. Dress appropriately (don't wear your coat, change shoes). Try a lumbar support. Don't drive over people, drive with them.
posted by sled at 9:26 AM on January 15, 2005

Response by poster: Awesome.
posted by mecran01 at 10:00 AM on January 15, 2005

88 Golf is a 5-speed, yes? I like manual transmission, but when I was stuck in stop-and-go interstate traffic in KC for two years, I would have LOVED an automatic, and wished for one every day about 5:01pm. It would have dramatically improved my driving experience during rush hour.
posted by Jeff Howard at 10:09 AM on January 15, 2005

telecommute? longer shifts for less days? wed-sun rather than mon-fri?
posted by andrew cooke at 10:11 AM on January 15, 2005

My uncle lived in Palmdale but his business was in Downtown LA. That's 4 hours in the car each day. He'd listen to language tapes. By the time he sold the business he was conversant in something like 9 languages.
posted by TimeFactor at 10:27 AM on January 15, 2005

My girlfriend and I bought a 97 Golf several months ago for around $4000 (Boston area), with a moon roof & cd player w/ aux input. The ride is great, but I'd second the automatic transmission for slower traffic.

I tend to keep all the windows closed and play George Winston or something equally gentle and calming during tedious driving situations, which helps a lot. My loud/fast music mainly gets saved for highway driving at full speed, since I get too pumped up to maintain my patience if I play it during the tedious commutes.

Also, the suggestion of water instead of coffee is a good one. Herbal tea is also a wonderful thing, as are breathing exercises. It may sound a bit silly and new agey, but when you're at the point of hating other drivers around you, you need to do some drastic things to stay cool.

On preview, language tapes are great too, just make sure you're really into them or they become another tedious part of your commute.
posted by spaghetti at 10:30 AM on January 15, 2005

For my last trip halfway across the country, I bought a bunch of episodes of This American Life from Fastest the hours ever went by. (It's great even if you're not American!) I'd also recommend the audio from Ken Burns' documentaries including the CDs that go with Jazz.

Use the time to become an expert in something. I think language tapes can be awfully boring, but perhaps there are some that do it in a more interesting way?
posted by ontic at 10:49 AM on January 15, 2005

One of the best purchases I ever made was a CD player for my car that can play MP3s. It was only about ten dollars more than a comparable model that couldn't play MP3s, so the savings in blank CDs alone make up for the price. If you fill up the whole disc, you've got about six or seven hours of music you like. Then you can set it on shuffle, and it's like having your own personalized commercial-free radio station.
posted by Faint of Butt at 11:32 AM on January 15, 2005

Buy a motorcycle. It'll transform your journey from dull to immense fun.
posted by Nick Jordan at 11:54 AM on January 15, 2005

I second This American Life.

Also, install an ez-bake oven in your glove compartment. Hot chocolate muffins 20 minutes into your commute! I can help install it for you..
posted by rajbot at 12:22 PM on January 15, 2005

A good stereo w/lotsa cd's works for me!
posted by LouReedsSon at 12:50 PM on January 15, 2005

A decent car stereo is a priority to me.

A head unit that plays CDRs with mp3s on them, aftermarket speakers, anything that isn't a paper cone will be a serious improvement, add a small subwoofer in a sealed enclosure (less rumble trunk issues) if your like the bass.

Then blast it and sing your way to work.
posted by Leonard at 12:59 PM on January 15, 2005

So here is an idea that I've been toying with to make my two-hour commute better.. This will only work if you have four coworkers who live in your neighborhood and also commute.

Used limos are really inexpensive (under $5000) and still very nice cars. You and your 4 coworkers each kick in $1000 to purchase it. Everyone takes turns being the driver.

One day a week, you drive the limo. The other four days, you ride in the back. What makes this whole thing fun is that you can drink in a limo! Drink, listen to the 8-track, watch porn, dance under the disco ball, make some muffins in your ez-bake oven..

Plus, one weekend out of five you get the limo to take your friends + family out on the town..

I can't seem to convince my coworkers to buy into it... but maybe you'll have better luck :)
posted by rajbot at 1:09 PM on January 15, 2005

Get an XM radio. Seriously. You will easily find 4 hours of content a day that are as interesting to listen to as watching TV. Okay, better than *that*, at least.

I love my XM radio to death. It's too bad I'm in Canada so it's illegal for me to listen to it, but that's an issue for another discussion (for those wondering, my personal ethics consider this civil disobedience for freedom).

As far as CB radio goes, I have one, and even in a town as busy as Toronto, and on the busiest highway in North America (the 401 Kings Highway) I would probably find perhaps 2 or 3 people using it during the day. So, it's sorta boring.

If you want to chat with people get your HAM radio license. I got mine (VE3BTF), but being a cheap ass I don't have the equipment yet. It's very easy to get a license, and there are always hundreds of HAMs to chat with, and with today's technology IRLP will let you chat with people halfway across the world.
posted by shepd at 2:21 PM on January 15, 2005

XM/Ipod is a great suggestion.

About a year ago I purchased a ten year old Grand Cherokee for around 4k. I live in Utah so the thing actually does go offroad regularly, but its really good for commutes too.

The factory stereo is really good. The ride is quite smooth for an SUV. And if you're stuck in traffic, the relatively large body of the car makes you feel simultaneously less clausterphobic and less connected to other drivers. You definitely feel a sense of separation from other cars so idiots are somewhat less angering.

I also have an '03 BMW sedan and an '01 Miata, and the Cherokee beats both hands down for the daily, stop-and-go commute. I think a Cherokee combined with XM would be perfect for being stuck in a car for a long time.
posted by pandaharma at 2:34 PM on January 15, 2005

Response by poster: The factory stereo is really good. The ride is quite smooth for an SUV. And if you're stuck in traffic, the relatively large body of the car makes you feel simultaneously less clausterphobic and less connected to other drivers. You definitely feel a sense of separation from other cars so idiots are somewhat less angering.

Somewhere out there, a green is weeping. Seriously though, most of these suggestions imply a type of separation, either mental/aural/physical, except for the motorcycle suggestion. I could never afford the gas bill for a Cherokee, and my ADD would kill me if I rode a bike.

TAL is wonderful. The limo idea is so intriguing. And I just checked out Andrew Weil's CD on healing breathing this afternoon. Every day, in every way, this thread keeps getting better and better.

I can't wait to hear from the Monday commuter crowd as well. This thread has paid for itself already.
posted by mecran01 at 4:57 PM on January 15, 2005

Response by poster: One other thing I'm going to try is a script that reads text files and converts them to audio mp3s. That will open up a world of content.
posted by mecran01 at 4:58 PM on January 15, 2005

One other thing I'm going to try is a script that reads text files and converts them to audio mp3s.

Project Gutenberg Audio eBooks might be of interest to you..
posted by rajbot at 5:28 PM on January 15, 2005

If the car runs well, keep it--it's often difficult to find a reliable car. If you can pony up for it, consider applying soundproofing material to your car. It will reduce aural fatigue and will probably make a world of difference. Link is to a good manufacturer that isn't the expensive "name" top brand, or so I've read.
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 8:45 PM on January 15, 2005

Definately automatic tranmission and a decent source of music. I have an '85 Gemini automatic and the iTrip FM transmitter for my iPod. I don't have a hugely long trip to work, but whenever I'm stuck in stop-go traffic I seem to be having a better time of it than most people around me.

Oh, and to solve noise, try premium petrol. Seriously. I just had to move from lead replacement to premium unleaded with an additive. The difference in the running of the car is amazing.
posted by krisjohn at 11:43 PM on January 15, 2005

Keep your windows sparkling clean - both the inside and outside surfaces. It's amazing how much nicer it is to drive when you're not looking through a smeary, grimy window; and it's much safer at night.

Those 80's Golfs are awfully noisy, vibraty, and buzzy. I can't imagine a less pleasant car to spend long periods of time in - you might want to upgrade to something with better soundproofing.
posted by ikkyu2 at 7:39 AM on January 16, 2005

If you can afford it, satellite radio is a godsend. I love the oldtime radio show channel so much that it can be hard to make myself get out of the car during, say, a great episode of "Dragnet."

If you live anywhere near a decent publc transport system, can you drive to a park and ride and then take the bus? I do this and then read, read, read on the bus. Saves the stress of driving and I get through lots of good books.
posted by GaelFC at 8:57 AM on January 16, 2005

I can't believe you're averaging 25mph on your way to work. That is seriously painful. If you live in a state where you can lane split, motorcycling will cut this down big time. (I don't live in such a state, but lane split anyway...)
posted by knave at 1:19 PM on January 16, 2005

Response by poster: The 25 mph average is on a bad day. On a good day it's 40 minutes/25 miles, or about 37 mph. Anyway, this is great stuff and has convinced me that I need to
  1. throw at least $300 at this problem, primarily for an ipod (finally a justification) and a better stereo. And probably soundproofing.
  2. Check out the soundproofing--the above link is much cheaper than some I've seen. Or upgrade the 80s golf.
  3. Get a hood blanket off of an older Audi (soundproofing)
  4. This American Life/Books on Tape/language training
  5. perspective/zen changes in attitude. 270 degree field of vision.
  6. multimedia: camera, voice recorder.
  7. Motorcycle (tempting, but I would die)
  8. Park and bus (takes a while because of route location, but good idea)
  9. Carpooling/reading/grade student papers/wardriving w/laptop
  10. adjust commute times to avoid traffic
  11. Work at home 1-2 days per week.
  12. Listen to the Andrew Weil yoga breathing cds (my own suggestion)
  13. Make a long term plan to not have to commute at some point (my suggestion)
  14. Partial bike commute.
  15. Try to make work more enjoyable--less apprehension on the way in.

posted by mecran01 at 9:43 AM on January 17, 2005

« Older Looking for a ukiyo-e print by Kotozuka Eiichi...   |   Car Deposit Trouble Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.