For the past 5 years we have lived on Johns Island. A rural area 10 miles from downtown Charleston, SC. Live oak, lowland marsh, farms, deer, osprey and heron vie for your eye's attention at every bend in the road. Before that, my wife and I held senior corporate positions in London UK, traveling some 50 miles from the South Coast for 4 or 5 days per week when not abroad on business travel. A few days ago, during my morning commute, the traffic on Riverland Drive was heavier than usual and I found myself getting frustrated, then I remembered back to what it was really like on the daily grind into London.
According to the US Census Bureau some 18% of workers in the US are what they describe as mega-commuters traveling more than an hour or so into work each day. This figure could easily be applied across the Atlantic as well - in my previous corporate life almost every manager I met up with had a longer journey than that. By train or car the travel time to London was 2 hours give or take a little. Add any traffic snag or a little snow or ice and you would double that. 4 hours per day, 20 per week. From the suburbs of Atlanta, New York, Chicago or Washington it's similar and I'll wager any major US city with a "beltway" has its own version of stop-and-go car park. Acknowledging that older cities tend to have sorted out their public transport issues to tolerable level in comparison to their population, for a bigger extreme try Mexico City or Manila or Shanghai - may as well take a sleeper bus or not go home at all.
Now admittedly, 20 or more hours per week for workday commuting is a big chunk of our time. Time that could be spent earning, playing with the kids or any other life enriching activity. Friday night you'll be tired and Sunday evening fretting about 5 a.m. Monday morning. So we did a little digging to find out how local commutes in here in Charleston compare -travel times reflect an average (Zipatlas.com 2015):
|Zip Code||Area||Time to work|
|29414||West Ashley (outer)||23.3|
|29407||West Ashley (inner)||19.5|
Now for some of these areas the general commute is not to downtown but to North Charleston for manufacturing jobs or within the regions for clerical or office positions but the picture holds true regardless. Additionally, commute times below 20 minutes are pretty much bikeable on a good day.
So if you want pleasant quality of life, a commute sufficient to provide a quiet break between work and home and short enough not to steal your life, then Charleston is a great place to live your life even if the locals occasionally complain about the traffic! Those of us from "off" know better.
Thought: My commute is down River Road with its grand Oak trees and hanging Spanish moss. Out across the Stono River bridge watching the sun come up across the marsh and James Island. Down scenic Riverland Drive. Cut across the the Ashley River Bridge with the city views ahead and glimpses of the container ships leaving down the Cooper River for some distant anchorage. Lockwood Boulevard with its walkers and joggers then on to Broad Street via Mason Prep where I drop my young son off at school. I've greeted colleagues, had coffee and written this blog before some of you have even arrived at your respective parking lots.
Check out my commute to work in a vintage 1926 Bugatti ... Watch the video NOW!