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5 Ways to Improve Your Commute

5 Ways to Improve Your Commute

Photo courtesy of gohsuket via Creative Commons

Steve Berman | MonsterCollege

April 14, 2010

3. Take Surface Streets

Remember the opening scene in Office Space, where main character Peter Gibbons sits in his motionless car on the way to work while watching a senior citizen in a walker cover more ground? On some of the most crowded highways, this same scene (without the senior citizen) plays out in real life twice a day during rush hour.

But where does it say you have to take the highway? Sure, it’s nice to get away from traffic lights, stop sign,s and 35 mph speed limits — but only when traffic’s light. If you’re sick of highway gridlock, try an alternate route. Look up directions from home to work, and click the “avoid highways” option. Many highways also have frontage roads where the traffic flows at close to the same speed as it does on the main thoroughfare.

Even if you don’t save much time by sticking to surface streets, the fact that you’ll be spending less of your commute sitting still will automatically make the whole ordeal less stressful.

4. The MP3 Player: A Commuter’s BFF

Nothing’s worse than listening to the same old tired CDs, or, even worse, listening to nothing at all on your commute. Whether you commute by car, train, bus, or on foot, bringing along an MP3 player can open you up to a world of auditory delights you never even thought of.

For most of us who already have an iPod, Zune, or any other such device, it’s easy to forget how many different things you can listen to. Getting bored with your favorite talk radio station? Download one of the infinite number of podcasts out there, many of which are free. Listen to entire books on your way to work. Set up that playlist you’ve been planning to make for months — it’s like making an extra-long mixtape for yourself!

Most new cars come with MP3 compatibility, but there are adapters for those that don’t. Most utilize an empty FM channel, and cost anywhere from $20 to $200.

5. Walk or Ride to Work

Some people live too far away to make walking or riding to work a viable option, but for many city dwellers getting to work via human power is not only possible — it’s preferable.

All you need is either a bike (don’t forget a helmet) or a good pair of walking shoes and you’re ready to go. There are obvious physical and environmental benefits to this mode of transportation, but there are also a couple hidden advantages as well. First, you’ll get a chance to explore your surroundings in a way you never imagined (“Hey, I didn’t know there was a coffee shop over there!”).

Second — and this goes for walking especially — you get a chance to be alone with your thoughts and plan your day. Sure, you can do the same thing in the car, but driving involves a certain level of attention that doesn’t lend itself quite as well to brainstorming and reflection. On a crowded bus or train you might have to stand up and hold on, so your attention is partly diverted by the task of keeping your balance. Commuting in the fresh air leaves you, well, refreshed. And for anybody used to fighting their way to work on America’s highways and byways, that’s a nice change indeed.