The Cost of Commuting
I think one of the major reasons people don't object more strongly to the commuting culture is that they simply don't realize how much it costs. After all, it's only driving to work in the morning, how much of your salary does it really take up? Well, for me:
- 31 gallons of gasoline per month = $79/mo., $953/yr.
- 672 miles driven per month; assuming a 100,000 mile vehicle lifespan, this depreciates my vehicle by $168/mo., $2,016/yr.
- Parking a few blocks from my building = $100/mo, $1,200/yr.
- Bumping my driving miles per year above 8,000 raises my insurance rates slightly.
- I waste a substantial period of time every day sitting in traffic. Assuming I value my time by about what I'm compensated for it at work, this costs me $1,127/mo., $13,524/yr.
Good lord, that's a lot. My commute costs me $4,169/yr. in actual costs, or $17,693 if you count lost time! (On one hand, counting lost time is cheating a bit since I wouldn't really spend all that commuting time working, and I'm not paid by the hour anyway. But since if I were offered the option to take a $13,524 pay cut to drop a day off my workweek, I'd take it in a heartbeat, I don't think it's an entirely unfair valuation of my time, either.)
And in many ways I'm getting off easy -- my car gets 22 mpg average (though honestly it may well be lower during Seattle's rush hour), it's a Honda that didn't cost all that much (keeping the depreciation cost down and meaning it really will last for at least 100,000 miles), and $4.75/day for downtown parking is cheap as hell. With a Mercedes and a better parking spot, I could easily have $7,500 in actual monetary cost from the daily commute.
Think about that -- your company's requirement that you sit in a cubicle at work every day, even when it's not actually necessary for what you accomplish, is costing you $4,000 or more per year. And that's cost, not wages, which means that not commuting would be the equivalent of a $5,700 raise in terms of how much money you would actually end up with in your pocket.
Of course, your company doesn't care overmuch, since you are paying that cost, and they are not. However, I think if more people were aware of the true cost, they'd be more inclined to view telecommuting as the benefit it is, and making use of remote workers would be a more accepted cost-saving measure for corporations. A $4,000 pay cut to work from home would actually increase my take-home pay, and that would be saving my employer money.