Looking for resources for extreme commuters
August 17, 2011 6:31 AM   Subscribe

Please recommend any online communities or other resources for long or extreme commuters, and please share your experiences with audiobook websites such as audible.com.

I have a long commute. My commute got long about 2 months ago when my wife and I bought a house. It is almost exactly 50 miles each way, and it takes me between 1h 5m and 1h 15m each way. The drive is largely pleasant, mostly along two-lane, rural country roads with 55mph speed limits. There is only one spot near work where I hit traffic, and I have a decent alternate route around that spot.

So far, the commute isn't sapping the life out of me like I expected it might. (Several years ago, when I lived in the Boston area, I also had a longer commute. It was life-draining, primarily because I used the Commuter Rail -- it was often late and insufficient for my needs. I used to sleep and/or read books or the newspaper on the train, but that didn't help the unpredictability of the train schedule.)

I have been taking out audiobooks from my local public library to "read" while I'm driving. I'm not sure yet that I want to spend the money on audible.com or its ilk because I'm not sure I'd "read" enough books to make the membership fees worthwhile. However, there are many times when I haven't been able to find the book I want in audio form at the library (a county-wide library system with an online catalog and online requests). Side question: does anyone have experience with audible.com or other audiobook sites, or even getting audiobooks on iTunes, that they'd be willing to share?

Googling "extreme commuting" brings up a bunch of articles from 4 years ago centering around a US Census Bureau study conducted at the time, and an old AskMeFi question on coping strategies. It also tells me that I'm not quite an extreme commuter as you need a 90 minute or longer commute to fit the definition. However, I think my commute length is close enough to the threshold that I count as one.

I'm looking to get in touch with other long or extreme commuters in my area to possibly set up car or van pools or just to talk and share strategies. There's a website and phone hotline in my area that matches commuters for carpooling, however, it hasn't found any matches yet. My next-door neighbor commutes farther than I, but he also works from home at least 3 days a week. Because of the nature of my job, I can't always work from home on a regular schedule, though it is an option on occasion due to inclement weather, family emergency, or other such reasons.

I'm not concerned about the drive; I actually like it. I'm more concerned with saving money on gas and wear-and-tear on my car. Public transit is almost non-existent in this area, and where it is, it's centered on getting to and from the closest two major cities. That doesn't help me as I commute from an exurb to a suburb. Carpooling or vanpooling looks like the only other viable commute option, and I'm not sure it's so viable.

Is there an online community I could sign up for to talk about coping strategies or find partners for carpooling?
posted by tckma to Travel & Transportation (7 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I've been really happy with the audiobooks from the library. My wife surprises me with things she thinks I'll like, some are better than others, but having pretty open expectations makes it easy to be pleasantly surprised.

If there's anything really specific I want, I usually just buy it and then donate the CDs to the library when I'm done.

I do almost all my listening on my iPod via iTunes. The key piece of info for this is that once you've burned all the tracks into iTunes, select them all, and then do command-I to get info. In the info options you can set the media type to 'Audiobook' so they're sorted differently from podcasts and music, and there's also a tick box for "remember last position". This is super key. That way if you fat-finger the forward button or something, when you go back to the track, it will start where you left off.

If the iPod goes unused for over 24 hours (like after a weekend or a day you work from home), it will shut down and totally lose your place in terms of what track you're one, etc. I hope others have better suggestions for managing this. What I do is just get into the habit of every morning when I expect this to be a problem (Mondays and Thursdays for me), fire up iTunes, plug in the iPod, and delete all the tracks on the book with a playcount = 1. That way the first item on the book is the first track I haven't finished listening to.

As for sorting out a carpool, Craigslist would probably be a good place to start.

(My other advice for the audio books is that it's nice to break up a long book with one or more of the regular weekly podcasts like Radiolab or This American Life or whatever you're into. The Monday commute is really nice to look forward to when I know I've got a new TAL to enjoy).
posted by colin_l at 6:43 AM on August 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

I have had a great experience with audible.com over the past 6 years of 2 hour-long daily commutes. There is a new-ish audible app that I use on my iphone and it lets me buy and download books directly, saves my position in each book when I jump back and forth, and it keeps my whole library. I really like it.

I have had the 2 books, one radio program subscription for 6 years, but now I am no longer commuting, so I may drop it down to just 1 book a month. They have several options, including just buying one book at a time too.
posted by elvissa at 6:49 AM on August 17, 2011

I listen to podcasts on my once a week 90 minute there, 2-1/2 hour home trip into the office.
posted by COD at 7:45 AM on August 17, 2011

Check out http://librivox.org/
posted by Obscure Reference at 8:37 AM on August 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

I used to have a long commute and I checked out audio books from the library. There were some advantages to using the library: They had a request system so I could have books delivered to my local branch and pick them up at my convenience. They had a wide selection, but not everything, so I often ended up listening to books I wouldn't have chosen myself, therefore broadening my horizons. And they sometimes bought books that I requested. Check out the library system website and see if there is a link for you to submit purchse requests. Put in your wish list and wait a few months to see what happens. They may just take care of you!
posted by bq at 8:39 AM on August 17, 2011

I have a 45 minute commute each way. I believe audible.com has preserved my sanity and lowered my blood pressure -- I am not kidding in the slightest. If I'm not listening to an audiobook, I find myself getting annoyed by other drivers. But when I'm listening to a book, I rarely notice the commute at all (sometimes when I get home I can't even remember anything about the drive). I've had an audible membership for six years, and it remains the best $22 or so I spend each month. That's $11 per book, and most major new releases are released same day on audible. I'm still a fan of "paper" books, but I believe some books are actually improved with the right narration.

I started with audible when my local library didn't have a great selection of unabridged books. For all I know libraries have caught up in terms of selection and technology, but I'm perfectly content with audible.
posted by pardonyou? at 8:48 AM on August 17, 2011

Podcasts, podcasts, podcasts!
posted by blue_beetle at 9:58 AM on August 17, 2011

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