A: #3. Everyone hates 1,2,4. Some enjoy 3.
When I moved LA several years ago, I was shocked that so many friends and colleagues spent at least 2 hours a day commuting. The lucky had mass transit ops; the unlucky spent hours inching along in cars on thoroughfares with names like the 210, the 5, the 101, and the 710.
Didn’t everyone hate it? I did! In fact, that move made me formulate my “urban hypothesis”: that the greatest health hazard for dwellers of sprawls like LA, DC, or Atlanta is not pollution, crime, fast food or poverty, but commuting.
I still support that, but am less sold on its corollary, namely, that no sane person would live like this. I’ve met some very sane folks who enjoy this misery.
Take X, who daily commuted 60 miles round-trip from San Bernardino west to our workplace, along the congested 210 corridor, an east-west freeway connecting the affordable Inland Empire to LA County. That trip round-trip took 2 hours+ daily depending on traffic, and X made it alone—no carpool nonsense. He forfeited 1/8 of his waking hours daily without complaint: raised near San Bernardino, he'd never worked close to home and had for one job driven a straight shot west to Brentwood, on LA’s westside—75 mi one way.
He seemed to like it. Early on, he says, he ate a lot of MacD in the car but then quit and now relies on audiobooks, gum, and soft drinks to keep him engaged. And the car provides a venue to smoke without disapproval of colleagues or family (X, a child of Asian immigrants, still lives in his family home). He says if public transportation magically arrived tomorrow, he wouldn't use it.
“My sense of self is tied to my car, “ he said. “It’s liberating that I take it to work. It makes me feel I’ll make it through the day.”
X is proof that providing mass transit alternatives may not be enough to pry people out of cars, because people crave solitude. How sweet to turn off the cell phone and escape demands of bosses or family with a book-on-tape and a cigarette. Think that’s “abnormal”? Read Sam Shepard’s Cruising Paradise, published in 1996, which celebrates how rich it is to drive rather than fly across country. Or relive the last episode of Six Feet Under where Claire hits the 10 (or was that the 210?) and leaves the crazy Fishers and LA behind on her way to New York, with 3000 miles of interstate in front of her.
If a tiny bit of that exhilaration was possible every morning, would you take light rail?