By Marisa Torrieri – Learnvest – August 26, 2013
The Rise of the Super Commuter
For Mary Beth Williams, home is where the heart is—and that’s Chicago.
Thing is, Williams only has a handful of days each month to kick back at her two-bedroom condo in the Windy City. The rest of the time she shares a small rental apartment with a roommate in Boston where she works as a health care executive. But Williams isn’t complaining. She’s used to it. Before she started this gig in 2010, she was flying back and forth for a similar job in Philadelphia.
Williams stumbled into her jet-setting lifestyle of shuttling back and forth between time zones. One day, in 2005, she says, she got a call from a recruiter in Philadelphia asking if she would go fill in for six months as an interim director for a program at a children’s hospital—and they agreed to fly her home every week. The gig was exactly what Williams was looking for at that point in her career, so she jumped at the opportunity. Then, six months turned into … four years, with Williams flying back to Chicago every weekend.
Actually, Williams is among a group of people who have been dubbed “super-commuters” by researchers at New York University’s Rudin Center for Transportation.
For super-commuters, the distance to and from work is 180 miles or more, which, for some, can mean hopping a plane. (Others may choose to take a train.) This subgroup of professionals accounts for about 3-10% of the working population—and their number is only expected to rise.
Workers Are Traveling Farther
According to the NYU report, super-commuting is becoming more popular across the country. A few of the well-traveled routes becoming even more common? Boston to Manhattan, Dallas-Ft. Worth to Houston, Austin and San Antonio to Houston, and Northern California to Los Angeles.
Job Mobility In a Bad Housing Market
“People are more likely to be mobile in regard to their jobs and homes because of the collapse of the real estate market,” says Mitchell L. Moss, one of the co-authors of the NYU report and a professor of urban policy and planning. When people get a job in a new city, he explains, they can find it difficult to sell their home in their current city, so they’re forced to wait it out.
Opportunity & Flexibility
While some people are forced to super-commute because of a slow real estate market, others go the distance for work simply because there’s greater opportunity elsewhere, but like where they live. Plus, with increasing mobile technology, says Moss, “there’s more flexibility in the modern workplace.”
Three years ago, Ian Bearce, a 40-something dad who lives in Minneapolis, landed his dream job working for an ad agency in Manhattan. He did the math and weighed his options: Finding a similar job in Minneapolis would be tough, but the cost of living, with his family, in the New York City metro area was so much higher. Plus, in the Midwest, he and his wife, Megan, have a bigger family network, an invaluable resource that meant built-in babysitting and help with their two kids, ages 6 and 4.| Print
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