Thursday morning’s Seattle Times reported the results of a study that ranks Seattle as the 10th-worst city in the US for traffic delays. Based on 2009 data, the delay alone cost car commuters more than $1000 per year in extra gas and lost time! That doesn’t take into consideration the total cost of commuting. And with the rising cost of operating a car, it’s probably much higher in 2010!

So, why do people live so far away from their jobs? For some, it’s a choice based on the lifestyle they want. But for many people, it doesn’t seem like much of a choicewe have to live where we can afford the rent. And without enough affordable apartments and homes in the city, where most of the jobs are located, many working people spend hours commuting from far away.

Living far from a job often means spending less money on rent, but more on transportation. For working people in the Seattle area, the total cost of housing and transportation averages more than 60% of household income! That doesn’t leave much for other necessities.

The money is a big concern for people who live from paycheck to paycheck working at jobs that we all rely on (health care support, child care, retail, janitorial, hospitality, and so on) – and so is the time that working people should be able to spend with their families, instead of commuting.

There are other impacts of long commutes, too – like environmental quality. More on that in a future post.

People should have choices to live close to their jobs, to services they need, to their schools and communities. We need more of those choices that are affordable for everyone!

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