Comment of the Day: Enjoying the Fruits of Commuting

COMMENT OF THE DAY: ENJOYING THE FRUITS OF COMMUTING “I spend a lot of time and money commuting from Pearland. I have done so since 1990, so I’ve seen the average time double since I moved out there. It could be true that over 30 years or so I’ll spend as much or more money on gasoline and travel costs as I would have spent on a closer-in place. But you know what? I got a screaming deal on a house I really like. My house payments are way lower than in-town rent and I would never be able to qualify for an in-town mortgage. I have a car I love and I’m a maintenance freak who does a lot of my own mechanical work myself. I haven’t had a car payment in nine years. Anse’s 45 minutes each way? That’s me. That’s an hour and a half of very rewarding music listening, podcasts, audiobooks, you name it, enforced each day. And all that cultural stuff that is ‘easier’ close in? You know, restaurants, bars, movies, plays, concerts, festivals, etc.? It’s all doubled or more than doubled in price since the ’90s. In the very, very long term, like a normal lifespan, it might be cheaper to live closer. But on a day-to-day basis, for a lot of us, it’s simply not affordable, and if it were borderline affordable, it wouldn’t be worth it.” [marmer, commenting on Comment of the Day: The Lies Houston Drivers Tell Themselves] Illustration: Lulu

31 Comment

  • It’s important to note that not everyone shares your views. Having alternatives to the car such as rail/bus in the suburbs is essential for a city to properly function.

    It’s also important to note that the hour you spend doing all of these things like listening to books/music can be done in transit and would be a much less dangerous method of enjoying these things.

    Just because you enjoy traffic does not mean everyone else does and we must have alternatives to the car in the Suburbs of Houston. It’s a NO BRAINER!

  • Yeah, well, you know, that’s just, like, your opinion, man

  • Well played, DNAguy.

  • Not everyone wants to or can live in the city, some people commute in everyday but their spouse works near home or in the opposite direction, take a look at the major employment centers in Houston, the prospects of having both jobs in town are getting slim. There are also issues w/ schools (affordability, quality and getting your kids into UT or TAMU etc.), not to mention crime.

  • I used to have commutes like that, some while on the clock too, and never enjoyed it. Seemed like a hugh waste of time. All those things listed can be done at home.

  • I wasn’t aware that there are no “cultural” establishments outside of Houston such as bars or movies for your entertainment. So because everything has doubled in price I guess that means you just stay at home then and never go out. Who cares who lives where and how long it takes you to go to work. That’s your personal choice and if you are happy than great more power to you. And just for anyone that is interested in doing real “cultural” activities, there is quite a lot of things do to and more so outside the loop that is very affordable. Go to brazos bend, George ranch, mercer arboretum, old town spring, check out Chinatown, some Hindu temples, San Jac monument.

  • One word: Delusional

  • It’s good that you have a method of transportation you enjoy. Now please let other people also have methods they enjoy (or at least dislike less). That’s called choice. And I can’t think of anything more American than choice.

  • Adam, we do have an alternative to a car, it’s called a bus. Houston’s park and ride system is far cheaper than commuter rail, more flexible (can pick up passengers from individual buildings downtown), and is operating well below capacity. What’s not to like??

  • Adam – define ‘properly function’. And why is having rail/bus in the suburbs necessary for this? I see statements like this all of the time with absolutely no support.

    As for the OP, I have a feeling if he lived inside the loop, the difference in housing price would be much more than the cost of ownership of his vehicle. And he would likely still need or want a vehicle even if he did live inside the loop. For most people, I doubt it would be cheaper to live closer-in even over the span of a lifetime.

  • WRONG and delusional on soooo many levels. I did the math before buying in the loop and realized that I break even on costs… but save on the time spent commuting and get to spend it with family. If marmer thinks sitting in a car and listening to music 1.5 hours a day is better than time with family… well I feel sorry for them. Cultural experiences? Try the FREE Miller Outdoor Theatre for the Houston Symphony, concerts, and performances. How about the FREE entertainment at Discovery Green? Or FREE exhibits and days at Museums? What about the FREE parades, FREE parks, or FREE bat viewings at the Waugh bridge? I guess in Pearland you can enjoy watching the grass grow or staring at a fake lake? Plus, marmer could have bought just as screaming of a deal in the city back in the 90’s and it would have appreciated more than anything in Pearland would have by now.

  • My only concern about the suburbs is long-term real estate values. Some of these suburbs are nice today, but in 20 years? Sharpstown used to be a real happenin’ community, too.

  • Crosscreek: “getting your kids into UT or TAMU” How about getting your kids into Rice or any of the Ivy league schools, MIT, Stanford…? That’s where graduates of Lamar, Bellaire and many other HISD schools apply and are accepted.

  • Adam, go back east.

  • Cars appreciate in value? That news to me!

  • I wasn’t going to comment. Really, I wasn’t. But my little defense of the joys of suburbia and commuting seems to have pushed a lot of buttons, especially those of a recent commenter. I doubt he’ll believe anything I say now since he seems to know my situation better than I do. So, very quickly: No, there was nothing within $50K inside the loop of what we got a brand new house in Pearland for. And the borderline ones were trashed and in scary neighborhoods. (we lived in Montrose, before.) I’ve been to Miller Theatre hundreds of times. Hundreds. And I often park at Fannin South and ride the train when I do. And Miller is an inferior artistic experience unless you go early and get tickets for the seated area. But if you want a big downtown performing arts organization, you’re going to pony up big bucks. (with rare exceptions like the upcoming free Day of Music at Jones Hall this Saturday, which you should go to.) Family time is a chimera with a working spouse and a kid in high school or college. You’re not going to lose anything significant in that regard by commuting. And what’s there to do in Pearland? Spend time with my family, that’s what, when they’re home.

  • Anse – Sharpstown’s still a great place to live and work! Cheap housing prices. Much easier commutes than if you live out in the newer ‘burbs. Amazing dining options. (It’s got the new China Town). Excellent private and charter schools.
    More to the point here: the 402 Quickline Buses that run out Bellaire Blvd really should be the future of transit City-wide. Take the Quickline buses, put them on dedicated lanes once they get Insie the Loop, raise up heavily traficked station platforms so they’re level with the floors – and voila, a more flexible, less expensive alternative to Light Rail.

  • Yeah, well – the most important thing to remember is that what you all call “traffic” is really just some form of reversion to the mean.

    All those good old days of the faster commute were just instances of spending the advance, using something that hadn’t yet paid for itself.

    In fact the process of getting enough people/businesses along it to effectively pay for itself would possibly even make it more aggravating than it’s worth.

    I doubt this is something people think of when buying a place in the suburbs.

  • It just seems silly to even have this argument against public transit. Why fight it??? Taking cars off the road is better for everyone, both drivers and non-drivers. Just think, those people on the bus/train are one less car stuck in traffic. :)

    @Grant — Commute time each way from Clear Lake (home) to Richmond and Hillcroft (work).
    Via car: 1.25 to 1.5 hrs.
    via bus: 2.25 to 3+ hrs. (if lucky!). The park and ride service is ‘good’…but not great. (That’s 6 hours of sitting on a bus a , or mostly waiting for the bus outside.)

    What if I want to get downtown on the weekend? Or I stay late at work? Last bus back to Clear Lake is around 8pm. After that it’s a $50+ cab ride. (and that’s a day’s pay right there!)
    I’m also talking about bus service within the suburbs. Having a bus roll down El Dorado or Bay Area Blvd or NASA Rd 1 would be amazing and is needed! The only bus that exists is for 9-5 commuters into downtown. It’s bizarre that you can take a bus to downtown but nothing takes you to the mall, supermarket, beach etc.
    In many parts of Clear Lake, the closest place to buy a loaf of bread is 2+ miles away. Walking 2+ miles with a ton of groceries in the summer (even the winter) is a pain in the A**!
    And how about service to Galveston?! Give us something…anything, please! You know the weekend traffic on 45 that I’m talking about. It’s brutal…sometimes it’s worse than weekday commuting traffic!
    Don’t even get me started on intercity transit. (Greyhound kills me a little every time I use it). MegaBus has been somewhat of a savior and the Mexican bus lines are OK, at least they give you a movie and a proper toilet.
    Let’s Get Some High Speed Rail up in this state! Amtrak service has ZERO trains to Dallas and 3 a week to San Anto that left yesterday!


    @bwdance — You can’t have a ‘functioning city’ with out proper infrastructure. Public Transportation is needed infrastructure to form a functioning city. It is just like water or electric lines. Imagine if the Suburbs only had septic (which some still do!).

    @markd — Houston, Texas born and raised :P Living in VA for the past 8 months and anxiously awaiting my return to Houston in another 8 months time! :)

  • @Brian nailed everything on the head. Who’d rather spend 1.5 hours a day in the car rather than at home with their family or hell even sitting alone in your own home for that matter. There is a ton of things to do for free inside the loop especially for families, but parking is a pain in the a$$. I’m sure the suburbs have something going on I just don’t know what it is because I don’t keep up with it. City and burbs both have significant number of house burglaries–nobody escapes that.

  • @ Densify: So you want options because its AMERICA! (Hell yeah!) No that’s not how it works.

    To make commuter transit cost effective in America or in Texas in particular, we’d have to do to our 20th-century cities what Napoleon did to Paris and completely reconfigure them. It wouldn’t hurt if, as we did so, we changed up immigration law to import a few million Indian slave-like laborers, sort of like they’ve done in Dubai and Singapore, just to keep the costs affordable to a people that can’t afford to hire their own people to do anything really at all.

    So yeah, a command economy and some human rights violations. Not worth it to have affordable, useful, feasible, and (most importantly, of course) ‘cool’ transit.

  • live where you want, that’s what I say.
    I will still laugh at anyone who says they got a better deal money wise living in a bedroom community and working downtown.
    The difference in price of gasoline from commuting in traffic 30 miles a day vs 5 miles a day is at least a full months house note just on its own.

  • To portray the folks in the burbs as only commuters of Houston is pure fiction. Most everyone in Houston has to be a commuter at some point. Does anyone really live next to where they work especially long term? This is the 21st century, people work for the same company for an average of 5-7 years. And your significant other? Good luck trying to find a decent apt at an affordable rate long-term, plus a long-term and nearby job for both you and your spouse.

  • Regarding Sharpstown…I like to occasionally take long evening walks in my neighborhood. I prefer to do it unarmed.

    I’d like to point out that not once in my rant did I suggest that people must *give up* their cars. We have two in my family and would not give up either unless absolutely necessary. I just long for a day when every new idea, every new development project, high rise, residential community, whatever, did not have to begin by addressing the question of where the cars are gonna go. It’s always the first hurdle we must leap. I think it’s time we put it a little further down the list of concerns and let things happen.

  • Drew- it’s not so much what the suburbs have going on, it’s the perception of what the City has going on.
    There are beautiful, affordable, closer-in neighborhoods all over Houston (especially in the area between Loop 610 and Beltway 8) where you can buy a house with a yard and plenty of square footage to raise a family. But almost without exception, these neighborhoods suffer from bad reputations – sometimes it’s the perception that they are high-crime (even though it’s usually not true); or it’s lackluster public schools; or the commercial properties nearby are run down….
    The suburbs are too new to have developed a reputation, good or bad. everything’s clean and new (including the schools). People put on a smile and endure hourlong commutes just for that.

  • i have a little cot in my office

  • All of Houston AND it’s suburbs is high crime.

  • I’ve lived inside the loop for 20+ years now. I could get a lot of money for my 60 year old house. I could get quite the mansion in one of the suburbs. But I have a non-freeway, 3 mile drive to work. The thought of commuting on the freeway is a killer for me. My family is from Pearland and many still live there. I have great familiarity with the town. All I can say is meh. And 288 is a nightmare. No feeder roads! If there’s an accident you are screwed.

  • IIRC, this argument wasn’t originally about whether we should have good public transit options – the argument was that suburbanites should be forced to use public transportation by being made miserable in their cars, and they deserved it for living in the ‘burbs? Those are two different issues. And neither of them is the third, neverending argument on this site – “My lifestyle in/out of the loop makes me economically, morally, and culturally superior.”

  • The worst part of the commute is the parking garage. I live in the Loop and have a roughly 20 minute commute- I timed it at 21 yesterday morning at 845 and I got home in 16 around 6 but but it often takes me 10 minutes or more to navigate the parking garage and its the most agonizing 10 minutes of the day. On days I don’t drive it’s not the lack of traffic that makes me smile, it’s not having to honk at someone who is about to hit me in reverse because they can’t figure out that no matter how hard they try their Denali is not going to fit into that compact spot.

  • Lived inside the loop, had a 2-mile local-road-only commute that allowed me to never worry about bad traffic or inclement weather to the degree the suburbanites did. Now I live close to Katy, take the bus daily, which is a 1-hour 1-way doorstep-to-doorstep ride. Is it pleasant? No, the homeless & other non-payers, the occasional gangsters, make for disappointing experiences (try commuting outside of 7AM-6PM). The rotten roads make it impossible to read real literature. I stress out running to keep up with random bus arrival departures. Would I drive, no for all the reasons mentioned above. Next year, I’ll be moving back in-town to a 3.5-mile local-road-only commute, also via Metro, but this time without the ubiquitous round-trip 2-hour daily voyage of h*ll. Suburban bus routes are for the birds and those without a choice.