Elisa Shackelton: Have you assessed your commuting costs lately? | CraigDailyPress.com

Elisa Shackelton: Have you assessed your commuting costs lately?

It strikes me as odd that so many people willingly get in their cars each day and head off to jobs in Steamboat Springs, not taking into account that they may actually be able to take a lower-paying job in Craig and have more money at the end of the month, extra hours to be at home with family each day, more recreational time, and perhaps even improve their health from not sitting and being stressed out on the highway so much.

Using the online commuting calculator at, http://www.commuterpage.com/Userweb/CostCommuting/CostCommuting.htm, I found that a person who drives to Steamboat five days a week in a car that gets 20 miles per gallon and pays $3.40 per gallon for gas in addition to wear and tear on the vehicle, spends $1,251 per month for transportation. This equals approximately $13,000 per year (based on 11 months of travel accounting for vacations and holidays) to work in Steamboat and commute from Craig. (You also could do the math using our region’s mileage cost reimbursement of 48.5 cents per mile, which comes out to $10,476.)

Either way, this is a big chunk of change.

According to a report by the Center for Housing Policy, housing and transportation have become the two largest expenses for most U.S. households. Not surprisingly, in their October 2006 report “A Heavy Load: The Combined Housing and Transportation Burdens of Working Families,” it was found that in their search for lower cost housing, working families often locate far from their place of work, dramatically increasing their transportation costs and commute times.

Roughly one out of every six American workers commutes more than 45 minutes, each way.

People travel between counties the way they used to travel between neighborhoods. The number of commuters who travel 90 minutes or more each way – known to the Census Bureau as “extreme commuters” – has reached 3.5 million, almost double the number in 1990.

Recently, Midas, the muffler company, in honor of its 50th anniversary, gave an award for America’s longest commute to an engineer in California, who travels 372 miles – seven hours – a day, from the Sierra foothills to San Jose and back.

“It’s actually exhilarating,” the man said of his morning drive. “When I get in, I’m pumped up, ready to go.”

Take the time to assess all of your commuting costs, and consider taking public transportation or carpooling with colleagues in order to decrease your actual road costs. It doesn’t look like gas prices are going to go down anytime soon.

For a copy of the Center For Housing Policy report mentioned in this article, visit http://www.nhc.org/index/chp-research-publications. For more information, contact Elisa at the CSU Moffat County Extension Office, 539 Barclay, 824-9180.

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