The other morning, while catching up on the world, I came across a New York Times article that caught my attention. It was linked to a tweet that mentioned the outrageous commute times that many New Yorkers are having to deal with in order to get to work. My first reaction to the tweet was that this is due to the inordinate number of persons being enamored by "big city living and a voodoo woman named Phyllis." Reading the article added another dimension to the problem entirely. The swelling of the American city due to the never ending quest for wealth and power is still very much involved. But the people in this particular article are the victims of this quest rather than the perpetrators.
The article tells the stories of service workers, security guards, laborers, good honest blue collar folks, who find themselves moving further and further from their jobs in order to have rents more in line with their incomes. Some of these people have had to relocate so far out that they are commuting up to 2 hours one way to get to work. This isn't your typical Atlanta commute. These people are using transit - buses, subways, combinations of the two, often having to switch back and forth more than once. People putting in eight to 10 hours a day making $11-$15 an hour simply cannot afford to live near their job...anywhere near their job. Throw in a two way commute that might equal as much as a half of their work shift, they've lost more than 12 hours just to pay the bills. An 8 to 5 worker could lave home at 6 am only to return around 7 pm.
As cities continue to drag in more large employers that pay high salaries and property values climb in response to the housing market shifts, the problem continues to worsen. And transit isn't making the situation any better, so it can't really be the answer.
Closer to home, we see Atlanta trending that way with many claiming that transit will ease the pain and make the problem evaporate. People float the ideas of minimum wages and rent control and a thousand other schemes to try to solve this issue. But there are resource issues - water, energy, air pollution, affordable food, disposal of refuse, all of these are stretching the capacity of Atlanta and nearly every other American city. Throw in the regional types of natural disasters (i.e. Los Angeles fires or flooding in Houston) and the cities don't have the resources and infrastructure to deal with what they have, much less more.
It isn't sustainable.
There is only so much urban sprawl that a plot of land can withstand. I've mentioned before that we need to be using our new connectivity and new technologies to spread out some, use our resources more wisely, and create more sustainable communities. We don't need a mom riding a subway for two hours to make a living and then ride two hours back, missing PTO meetings, dinners with her family, and whatever practices or activities she can afford for her kids to be involved in. She can't have an effective family this way. This isn't life. This is survival. Nothing more.
We have to change our thinking - as individuals, as a society, as a nation. No one is ever going to win the Rat Race. The only way to not lose is to not run. It is time to look for us to quit chasing shiny and start pursuing meaning. Why are we doing what we are doing?
Historian, self-proclaimed gentleman, agrarian-at-heart, & curator extraordinaire