Longer commutes are making workers feel lonelier than ever

Commuting sucks and new research proves it. A study conducted by the University of the West of England, “Commuting and Wellbeing,” suggests that long commutes are having a negative impact on workers’ mental health and job satisfaction.

The study, which was sponsored by the UK’s Economic and Social Research Council, was conducted between February 2016 and August 2017. The researchers used data taken from the UK Household Longitudinal Study (UKHLS), which has been surveying adults from 40,000 households across the UK since 2009. For “Commuting and Wellbeing,” researchers focused on six years of data, from 2009/10 to 2015/16.

According to the project summary, the researchers were principally interested in the change, over the selected timeframe, of workers’ commuting behaviors and how it may have impacted their general wellbeing. Wellbeing is defined as “the extent to which people’s lives are going well and is most often measured subjectively.”

Business Insider reports that in England, the average commute time has raised over the past 20 years, from 48 to 60 minutes. One in seven UK commuters will spend a minimum of two hours daily commuting to work. In the US, commute times are slightly shorter, averaging at around 50 minutes round-trip.

It isn’t that surprising then that researchers found, in the UK at least, that each additional minute of commuting time reduces not just leisure time, but job satisfaction as well. Those added minutes add strain and stress, negatively impacting workers’ mental health.

Note though that not all commuters are created equal, according to the study at least. Those who opt to bike or walk to work report higher job satisfaction than their bus and train riding peers.

Dr. Kiron Chatterjee, the principal investigator for the study and an associate professor of travel behavior, concluded that just adding 20 minutes to a worker’s commute can result in the same negative impact on job satisfaction as receiving a 19 percent pay cut.

Even though spending extra time on the train is not appealing to anyone, Chatterjee points out that many will still opt to do so if it means that a higher paycheck is the result. A higher-paying job, even with a longer commute, still seems to improve job satisfaction.

“This raises interesting questions over whether the additional income associated with longer commutes fully compensates for the negative aspects of the journey to work,” Chatterjee remarked via Business Insider.

What’s even worse than the strain commuting puts on our mental health? Well, according to Lydia Smith with Quartz Media, it’s also making us lonelier than ever.

“Millennials,” Smith writes, “are often maligned as entitled, work-shy snowflakes unwilling to go the extra mile for their professions.” However, this is probably not all that true; in fact, research points to the opposite.

Smith points out that a lethal combination of stagnant wages and rising house costs, which is the trend in not just the UK but elsewhere as well, are pushing young people further away from their jobs. Smith herself went through a period where she was traveling nearly 200-miles each week to get to work. The UK’s Trades Union Congress also believes that a “lack of investment in roads and railways” has also added to workers travel times.

This problem of getting priced out of locations close to work and increased commuting times is felt most acutely by a younger demographic, those aged from 20 to 35. Young Brits within this age range often spend about a third of their post-tax income on rent.

Young Brits and young Americans alike are suffering, in part, due to the aftermath of the 2008 Great Recession. According to a 2016 Resolution Foundation report conducted in the UK, young Brits are the first generation to earn less than their parents. Their American peers fare no better. A 2015 US Census unraveled that young Americans are earning $2,000 less on average than their parents did at the same age.

As a result, a younger generation is facing higher costs of living, lower wages (which leads to less disposable income) and longer commutes. The Netflix-and-chill generation is going out to socialize less and spending more times on social media to fill the void.

The downside is that spending more time on social media actually makes people feel lonelier. In fact, a University of Pittsburgh study discovered that young people between the ages of 19 and 32 who spend more than two hours a day on social media are actually twice as likely to feel socially isolated, or lonely. Even Robert Putnam, a political scientist at Harvard, suggests that a long commute is one of the most substantial predictors of loneliness.

Considering that more and more people are being subjected to longer commutes to work, it might be about time that employers start offering telecommute positions or work-from-home scenarios as the new norm.

If a more flexible work schedule isn’t the option for you, try to make the most of your commute by meditating, listening to a podcast or reading a book.  

Featured image via Pixabay

MTA Will Test Workers For Sleep Anea

Three years after the Metro-North train derailment in Brooklyn, The Metropolitan Transportation Authority announced on Monday its intent to test employees for sleep apnea. The MTA board members unanimously accept this contract, estimated at $7.5 million, to test for sleep apnea in crew members after the fatal derailment in December was blamed on an engineer’s undiagnosed medical condition.

Sleep apnea is a condition in which breathing stops and starts repeatedly while an individual is asleep, up to hundreds of times per night. This is caused by the throat muscles relaxing and blocking the windpipe intermittently. Left untreated, someone affected by this disorder does not get sufficient sleep, resulting in reduced alertness and involuntary sleeping spells.

The contract will allow MTA test 20,000 employees for the condition; every commuter train and subway operator and every bus driver will be screened. A pilot program diagnosed 51 out of 438 engineers and trainees with the disorder function.

MTA Chief Safety Officer David Mayer said employees will be screened during their mandatory MTA physical examinations. The doctor will administer a questionnaire to gauge the patient’s risk for drowsiness, and also check neck circumference. A neck circumference of over 17 inches can be a sleep apnea factor.

Mayer says that should an operator be labeled as an at-risk for the condition, “our employee will be referred for a sleep study.”

Once the MTA board approves it, ENT & Allergy/ Night & Day Sleep Service, Respira, Northwell Health and Catholic Health Services of Long Island will get the contract.

Larry Schwartz, MTA board member, said “We need to do the initial screenings, prioritized by looking at at-risk MTA employees, and get these apnea tests under way.”

Schwartz continued, “It’s an important way to assure the riding public that we’re doing everything humanly possible when it comes to their safety.”

M.T.A and Transit Workers Come to Agreement on Labor Contract

Just this past Monday, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (M.T.A.) came to an agreement that will give New York City subway and bus workers a 2 percent pay raise. They reached an agreement not too long after the end of the last contract.
Many would believe that the finalization of the contract is to be the last act the M.T.A. chairman, Thomas Prendergast, performs while still in power. Prendergast steps down soon and announced this decision when the Second Avenue subway first opened.
One of the main focuses of the contract was worker safety. This became a main issue after a worker was hit by a subway train while trying to set up lights for a construction zone. Despite this key point, however, the details of the agreement have yet to be fully disclosed. The members and executive board of the Transport Workers Union have to approve the agreement as well.
The estimation is that the contract provides workers with a raise of up to 2.5 percent within the first 13 months of the 28-month agreement. The following 13 months would see the same percent raise. The last two months of the contract workers get $500.
The increase in wages will only begin once all parties involved ratify the contract. Large bus operators who receive an hourly wage will also get an increase.
John Samuelsen is the President of the Transport Workers Union representing over 38,000 workers in the city. He said in a statement, “We waged a multifaceted campaign that raised the awareness about the value transit workers have to this city, the dangerous nature of their work and the sacrifices they make to move eight million riders a day.”

MTA’s Financial Plan for 2017 Includes a Fare Hike

More people are relying on public transportation and MTA has to cater to the increasing number of riders. With MTA’s inconsistent and unreliable service, MTA is planning to increase fare prices to provide better service to consumers.

Subway and bus services have been plagued with delays and incompetent service this past year despite an increase of riders this past year.

MTA has almost definite plans of increasing the base price of fare from $2.75 to $3. MTA is going for a projected goal of at least $300 million annually. Prices for other metro cards such as 7-day and 30-day may also increase.

MTA officials state that they would not raise prices unless they see a mutual pain for everyone by doing so. If financial forecasts in November do well, then MTA will rethink about the price hike.

A 4% fare increase for MTA will earn $308 million annually until 2020. In addition, if MTA follows its trend of metro card fare spikes, MTA will earn another $584 million in two years time.

In 2015, MTA earned $7.7 billion in toll and fare earnings. According to budget reports, this amount only makes up for half of the cost that MTA needs to run its transportation systems.

In February, MTA earnings did not reach its projected goal and instead missed its benchmark by $182 million.

Although this fare increase will help MTA provide better service for its consumers, some consumers are still discontent with the fare increase back in 2015. Increasing the fare by a quarter can hugely impact low-income workers. Other riders are willing to pay a little extra if MTA promises better service and punctual trains.

Mayor Bill De Blasio is trying to find an alternative to the fare hike and help low-income workers. He wants to see if there is a way to earn enough money for the MTA without digging a whole in the pockets of the poor.

San Francisco Tech Bus Program in Hot Water?

You can’t please everyone and that includes who should have access to city bus routes. Plans for tech companies to use San Francisco’s municipal bus routes have had activists up in arms. As early as late last year activists have been barring buses that ferry tech firm employees from Google, Facebook, and Yahoo. They blame these and other tech companies in the San Francisco area for creating economic disparity. The lawsuit states the tech bus program displaces lower-income workers, creates greater pollution, and disrupt the usual flow of public transit.

Chris Daley, political director of SIEU Local Union 1021, stated “The buses tie up traffic and make their way into public bus stops without paying a fair share of the freight.” The tech bus program has been running for the past 18-months. San Francisco has exempted it from review under the California Environmental Quality Act as the program claims that it is still in its data gathering phase. The program employees 350 buses and the city estimates that about 35,000 tech commuters take advantage of the routes on a daily basis.

That should at least take the pollution argument off the table. Though an individual bus produces more pollution than a single car, 350 buses produce far less pollution than 35,000 cars. This should also cut down on traffic with all those automobiles off the road. As far as displacing lower-income workers are concerned though, it’s the flaw in the plan. It seems that this lawsuit really stems from jealousy of the have-nots, but this may be their silver lining. People should not be forced to leave their homes to make room for bus routes. Most likely this affair will be settled out of court, and hopefully it will be the last time we have to hear about it.