Comment of the Day: The Lies Houston Drivers Tell Themselves

COMMENT OF THE DAY: THE LIES HOUSTON DRIVERS TELL THEMSELVES “I’m convinced that everyone in Houston lies to themselves (and others) regarding their commute. Ask someone who works downtown and lives in Sugarland or the Woodlands what their commute is. ‘30 to 45 minutes, it’s not that bad’ will be their response. What a lie! It takes 10-20 minutes just to get from a downtown garage to a freeway most days. Perhaps they are only spending 30-45 minutes on the freeway (on a good day), but they are forgetting the 15 it took on get on the freeway and the 15-20 it takes to get from the freeway to their driveway. But its not just people from the burbs that lie about their commute. Talk to someone who lives in Montrose or the Heights and they’ll brag that their commute to downtown is only 10 minutes. Total crap! There are intersections that take longer than that to get through. People who live in Midtown might have a 10 minute commute, but that’s on a good day. So here’s the formula I use when calculating someone’s average commute. If they live inside the loop, double whatever commute time they give you. If they live outside the loop, multiply by 2.5. Try it out when talking to coworkers some time, you’ll find that its fairly accurate.” [Walt, commenting on Comment of the Day: How To Drum Up Support for Better Public Transportation in Houston, and Faster] Illustration: Lulu

52 Comment

  • So true. And suburban commute braggers often don’t mention the 5 am and 3 pm leave times neccessary to achieve those “short” commutes.

  • Now are we talking about “rush hour” commutes or any time of the day, because not everyone works 9-5. I can get to downtown from montrose in 10 min pretty much all the time unless it was in the middle of rush hour. Lucky for me I work in the village and it takes me only 5-10 min every day to go to work (from montrose). I could never make a 45-60 min commute (one way) every day! How horrible!

  • I’m rather astonished at people who think 45 minutes is not a bad commute. That’s an hour and a half of your life every single day that you are never getting back. I’d go bananas. What kind of gasoline bill do these people have? Amazing.

  • I too have noticed this strange trend. People are wacky.

  • I couldn’t agree more–I’m always perplexed when someone states it took them 20 minutes to get from downtown to The Woodlands –I just want to laugh and say yeah right, maybe if you drive a car from The Jetson’s –maybe they do this so as not to look like complete idiots for buying a house that’s an hour and a half commute during rush hour from their job downtown at One Shell

  • Not so much of a lie, as an optimistic rationalization. If you live in the burbs and drive to downtown, you’re pretty much a fool; given gas prices, insurance, the Houston driver’s NASCAR mentality, etc. You want to live well, stop spending 2 hours a day in your polluting overly expensive cars.

  • While I agree that people under-report their commutes, I do have to pick a little about the inside the loop commute factor.
    If someone from Rice military, Camp logan, Crestview etc told me it took them

  • It also depends on what roads you take and how smart of a driver you are. There are plenty of idiotic Houston drivers who have their heads stuck up there butts aimlessly driving around. For them I’m sure any drive time is doubble what that trip should actually be.

  • I like these new cartoons.

  • Here’s a tool to put your theory to the test… at least when it comes to public transportation:
    I thought I remembered a post about this in Swamplot and after a quick search i found it:

  • where the heck did you find that graphic? I love it.

  • Per google maps, my office is .4 miles away. A 2 minute drive or 8 minute walk (or 3 minutes on my electric skateboard :)
    So I’m fine with that commute even if it doubles.
    Some people can handle driving in traffic in order to live where they can buy a big house or live cheap. Others would rather live in a tent and not have to commute. There is something about being stuck in traffic that drives me crazy. I just can’t do it. No way I could do it daily.

  • I base it off my sleep and work schedule. I wake up at 630, leave the apartment at 7 on the time. Drive from Midtown to Deer Park. Normally I’m sipping my coffee by 727-733.
    On the other side, it takes me longer to get home normally. Leave by 5. Home by 533-545.

  • It takes me 6 mins. to get to work on a good day.

  • I’ve often wondered about the longer afternoon commutes along the same route. In the mornings I average 25-30 minutes from Montrose to the farthest corner of Spring Branch West, arriving a few minutes before 8. It usually takes about 50% more time to get home if I leave work at 5. Perhaps it’s an obvious symptom of commuting after working versus commuting after resting.

  • It really varies for me. If traffic is smooth and it’s off-peak, my drive from Brays Oaks takes to work in Sharpstown takes 13 minutes. If it’s rush hour or there’s an accident, it’s 20-25 minutes. If it’s rush hour AND there’s an accident, 30 minutes.
    I’m being honest here.
    Yeah, I wish I could walk or at least bike to work. I drive by certain buildings and I say to myself, “someday I’ll have my office right here.” But in the grand scheme of things, my commute really isn’t bad at all.

  • I’ve seen numerous quotes from people who state that they like their long commute, because it’s the only time during the day they have to themselves. Well, okay, I guess.

    Don’t forget that there’s as many or more folks who drive from one outlying job location to another – I personally knew of folks doing back end of Kingwood to Westchase – and their drive is equally as long and heinous, or even more so, than someone doing the suburb-to-urban-core thing.

    It’s amazing what people will spend in terms of home price (the desirable outer suburbs have more expensive homes than most of the inner and middle suburbs), commute time, fuel, vehicle depreciation, and stress just to make sure their children go to school with the “right” other children.

  • It often takes me 30 and sometimes 40 minutes in bad traffic to get from my office in the Galleria to my house in Shady Acres. 15 minutes in light traffic.

  • 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.

  • I guess it never occurred to all you green, anti-commuter snobs that alot of families are dual income with spouses who have great jobs in different parts of town….The most central area for someone to live has abysmal, not just bad, but abysmal schools…

    Its all a trade off – if one spouse gets a short drive and a good school district, the other drives 2 hours each way…if you live central, you pay for private school at approximately $25,000/yr.

    Not everything is black/white like you want to think. I have a reverse commute so my wife can have a short commute….I have friends who BOTH reverse commute, one to the woodlands, one to Clearlake…where do all you uppity do-gooders think such a couple should live?
    Perhaps we should emulate those super successful east coast utopias like Chicago where they can take buses and just apply for welfare rather than keep their excellent jobs and drive.

  • Live in the Heights [N. Main @ Calvalcade], leave home at 7am, arrive Almeda Rd. @ Holcombe in 15-18 minutes. Every day.

    Enough said.

  • I complain if my commute racks up any longer than 20 minutes driving from midtown to Spring Branch and I’m still usually driving at a decent rate even in “traffic” on Memorial…I just don’t know how people sit in completely stopped traffic for an hour! Crazy

  • I live in the Heights and it does indeed take me 10 – 15 minutes to get downtown. The only two major intersections are I-10 and Washington Ave.

    Memorial Dr. hauls ass.

  • Here’s a crazy idea, I’ll live where I want, you live where you want and it’s none of your business how long it takes me to get to work

  • Montrose to downtown in 15. I don’t care if anyone believes that or not.

    That said, I agree with Trey. Worry about where you live and how you commute. People have their reasons for picking where they live whether you understand/agree or not. If you like where you live then you should be thankful that others live elsewhere and aren’t driving up the demand in your area that much more.

  • @ marksmu: Yes the dual-income household has complicated the residential location decision a lot, and this is often forgotten in such discussions.

  • I learned something today.

    Chicago is on the East Coast.

  • @Marksmu: The decision on whether to have a long commute or not is not simply the lifestyle choice of the commuter. Houston’s air quality is amongst the worst in the nation. While the ship channel industries have made improvements, the increase in vehicular traffic will gradually negate all of those gains and put Houston back to the top of the list for smog. And smog is a real health hazard, especially for the elderly and young children. So, anyone who can live closer to work should do so for the benefit of our air quality and not just to reduce commute times.

  • Trey and Takeshi have it right. But this whole argument grew out of the “make drivers miserable so they’ll support transit” manifesto. The manifesto seeks to push you into urban living. They need the density to make transit work, and they need angry drivers, stuck in gridlock, to beg for transit funding.
    Never mind that Houston has plenty of extremely dense neighborhoods that desperately need transit but can’t get it (and wont get it) because they’re poor and unhip. Never mind the whole free will personal choice thing. They want to make you suffer so you’ll move and support transit.

  • Beg to differ, it took me exactly 10 minutes to get from my home in Montrose to my parking space downtown. Then about 5 more minutes to get to my desk. And Memorial Dr. is lovely.

  • PS: My hours were from 9-6 so I might have missed some of the rush hour.

  • Just walked in the door. Walked out of my office in the Gunspoint area at 4:27 and got to my front door in Shady Acres at 4:50. Going outbound in the morning is even faster. Oh, and I spend more on red wine per week than what my full size pickup guzzles in gasoline. Oil broke $100 bbl again today. The more expensive it is the more I make. You busy bodies can go pound sand.

  • My three mile commute from Montrose to Highland Village takes an average of ten
    minutes via Westheimer or W. Alabama. When I lived in Rice Military, also at 3 miles, it took 12-15 on average and 25 on the way home if traffic on Kirby was a mess. Traffic inside the Loop could be greatly improved with upgraded traffic signals, the allowance of left turns on a number of intersections and
    taking advantage of existing right of way to create dedicated left turn lanes on Shepherd
    from West Gray to Richmond and Westheimer from Buffalo Speedway to Shepherd and carving some left turn lanes out of the esplanades on Weslayan between Westheimer and SW Freeway–among others.

  • 77005 to an office downtown, takes me 10 minutes from driveway to parking space. If I don’t stop for coffee. When we bring on new folks, I usually suggest they stay at a hotel for a few days in the general area they plan on renting/buying. Let them see what the commute feels like.

  • From my front door in the Heights via one of the 3 Metro bus routes to my desk is about 30 minutes, if I ride my bicycle 22 minutes, I have not driven into downtown since I sold my car in 2005 or 6, however, I seem to remember it taking about 30 minutes door to door. I could not justify owning a car then nor now. The return trip takes a bit longer somewhere between 30 minutes to an hour depending on Metro and how many parking garages they have to stop at while one of the many law enforcement agencies in the area allows traffic to exit the parking garages. If I ride my bicycle it takes 25 minutes, it must be the hill I have to ride up in the Heights.

  • Does anybody really desire a zero or one minute commute? I like the time I have on my daily walks/rides/drives/trains. I used to get dropped off at work and it took ~4 minutes, it was not enough time to feel like your going somewheres as opposed to just arriving.

  • Most of these posts have proven Walt’s post. Well played, Walt. That said, I travel from my house in Montrose to Clear Lake every morning in 20 minutes easy . . . . And drop my wife off in the energy coordidor on the way. And get coffee.

  • @third ward whitey: the graphics are drawn specifically for the “comment of the day” so if you submit a good one, you can get a custom drawing.

  • This is SO TRUE. Love it.

    I live in Montrose, near Montrose and Alabama. With morning traffic including getting into the raking garage and finding a spot on the 10th to 12th floor downtown and walking down the stairs and up the elevator into the office it takes between 20 and 25 minutes to get to work (rush hour).

    I can also take the light rail in 25 – 30 min but lately I haven’t been doing that because of the heat. But from October to may I sure will be.

  • @#37

    Ha ha ha

  • I work downtown – it takes me 10 minutes to get from my garage to I-45S. If I want to go to I-45N, my parking garage is not far and it takes me about 5-7 minutes to get from my garage to being on the freeway. The only time it has ever taken 15+ minutes has been if there is an accident or something special going on downtown hosing up street traffic (i.e., presidential candidate visiting, streets blocked).

  • Commute from bedroom to office: 30 feet

  • And this is precisely why real estate sales are so hot right now east of 59 in the EADO area….

    Why? Because it is literally a 10 minute drive from driveway to workplace! LOL

  • I work in the original Enron tower and the elevators are so bad here that it sometimes takes me longer to get from my office to my car than it takes to get from the garage to my house on the western edge of the Heights.

  • My house to the edge of downtown – average 6 minutes. But once I’m in downtown, another 20+ minutes of sitting in construction-fueled gridlock. Is there any street downtown that’s not torn up/lanes blocked off/detoured in some way?
    Progress is great and all, but I’m pretty sure the same stretch of Fannin has been torn up and repaved like 6 times in the last year.

  • I’m guilty of this. I live in the Heights and take Metro down North Main to my job downtown. The bus ride itself lasts at most 15 minutes, depending on MetroRail contruction obstacles, so that’s the figure I constantly quote. But door-to-door it’s more like half an hour, when you factor in walking-to-bus-stop and waiting-for-bus time.

  • A few years ago I moved my office a few blocks, from the upper reaches of Chase Tower to a more modest building with parking on its lower floors instead of across the street. My commute time was cut in half by dropping out two elevators, two escalators, and a one block tunnel walk…not to mention, I NEVER have to wait in line for a garage elevator anymore.

    Re the latest downtown construction – what with Houston’s bizarre relationship with street rail (so many more warnings and restrictions than I’ve seen anywhere else, yet even the bus drivers here manage to run into the trains) – I’ve got to wonder how they are going to handle the parking garage entrances and/or exits that cross the rail lines.

  • I don’t know how other folks could be forgetting the time it takes them to commute and managing not to get fired for being late every day on account of Walt-time-calculus.

    Walt seems disgruntled. Houston might not be a good town for him and his health, long-term. Either that, or maybe he ought to try looking for some friends who aren’t such filthy liars…

    I hate commutes. I’ve lived in Montrose for years to avoid sitting in traffic.

    I leave my Montrose home at 7:20 each morning and walk in the door of my downtown workplace at 7:40, and part of that time is spent driving to the 6th floor of a parking garage.

  • I live near Heights and White Oak and work in downtown Tomball. Luckily I have two options to get to work. One is to take Heights north to 11th then to 45, Beltway, 249. The other is take Heights south to I-10, 610, 290, Beltway, 249. Each way takes me about 33-38min in the morning and around 35-42min in the evenings.

  • All you folks hauling @ss down Memorial Drive, slow the hell DOWN!!

  • 77005 to Starbucks to 77005 is generally about 15 minutes depending on how fast the Starbucks staff is that morning.

  • It’s called life balance. You make the personal decision as to what is more important to you and what you can afford. Schools, social life, safety, or just peace and quiet. I choose safety (I am a single woman)and peace and quiet. And room for my animals. I work in Gunspoint, so living close is totally out of the question. I used to live in a subdivision – hated having my neighbor blasting his music just 15 feet from my patio. Now, I choose to trade a longer commute of 45 min to 1 hour each way to be able to gather my own eggs and vegetables, hear whipporwills and see STARS at night. I do my errands on the way home to cut down on side trips. My work has adjustable hours, so I work 6:45 to 3:30, to make the drive easier and do my errands and appointments after work.