Clean Air Commute Blog: The Super Commuter & Teleworker
Posted on: May 24, 2019 in Air Quality & Environment
About half of MetroPlan Orlando staff members get to work some way other than driving alone – at least one day a week. As we close out the month of May — recognized as Clean Air Month, a time to examine how habits affect the environment – some of our staffers are sharing stories from their commutes.
Today’s commuter story comes from Eric Hill, Director of Transportation System Management & Operations. As a resident of Tampa, Eric easily claims the longest commute in the office. He is a “super commuter,” someone who spends more than 90 minutes getting to work. Super commuting has been cited as a national trend since 2018 Census data showed the number of people spending this much time en route to their jobs has grown steadily. Now, more than 4 million commuters nationwide fall into this category. However, Eric uses the clean air strategy of teleworking from home one to two days a week to mitigate the effects of his driving. In addition to keeping him off I-4 and cutting down on fuel use, he says teleworking offers an uninterrupted time to work on projects and administrative duties. Here’s Eric’s commute story:
Over the past 20 years, I have become a mosaic of communities as a result of my work, residence and commute. I work in downtown Orlando, live in the City of Tampa and drive I-4 for 90 percent of my commute, approximately 81 miles from my driveway to the parking garage.
Let’s look at a typical day: Tuesday, May 21. The day begins meeting the sun as I drive east on a canopied local road through the city of Temple Terrace. I started using this route several years ago, abandoning the alternative state road that forces me to merge with high-speed traffic on I-75 and put on the brakes to merge with I-4 after about five miles. I opted for my current route, which is less stressful and conducive to enjoying a cup of coffee. It connects me with US 301 and a welcome merge with I-4 east. For the next approximately 45 miles I am using cruise control and listening to Tampa’s NPR station. Just before Florida Polytechnic University, the FDOT Variable Message Sign on I-4 reports the travel time for the next 14 miles to US 27. This interchange with I-4 has become a traffic congestion juggernaut. Instead of about 15 minutes to travel 14 miles, it’s now taking 25-31 minutes. Add to this 15 to 20 minutes to travel from US 27 to SR 429, only six miles. At this point, I switch to Orlando’s NPR station and my trip is fairly smooth again. I have some delay at SR 535. I am grateful to SGL (a construction joint venture working on the I-4 Ultimate) for maintaining traffic through the managed lanes project between Sand Lake Road and South Street. My travel time on this segment is pretty much the same as it was when I started commuting to Orlando in 1999. Even when there is an incident, the response has been timely and coordinated.
You may wonder how I have endured this torturous drive for 20 years. First, I have become an avid NPR listener and supporter. Also, this time is sometimes used to stay connected by cell phone with family and friends. I try not to let my my driving distract me from the rich conversations I’m having – JOKE, JOKE.
So, this is my commute to work. When I started making this trip, it would take me a little less than 85 minutes; during the recession, it would average 75 minutes; and now it takes me a flat two hours. And here’s a fun fact: Given that the circumference of Earth at the equator is about 24,902 miles, I make the equivalent of a trip around the Earth each year.
Our Clean Air Commute Blog runs through May 31. Future stories will look at being multi-modal in Downtown Orlando; traveling on SunRail; and using LYNX buses. Remember: EVERY MONTH SHOULD BE CLEAN AIR MONTH.