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Are you driving yourself crazy?
Kelli Phillips, Contra Costa Times
Long commutes to work take heavy mental, physical toll, experts say
Commuting can be a pain in the neck -- not to mention the back, knees and heart.
Ask 65-year-old Ben Hornstein, and he'll say commuting is bad for health. "It really taxes the mind and the body," he said.
The Concord resident has been commuting to the FedEx Freight Service Center in Stockton for seven years. Before that, he made a daily trek to San Jose and back.
The nearly 150-mile round trip between Concord and Stockton can take two to three hours one way, sometimes keeping Hornstein in his Toyota Camry for six hours a day.
"What bothers me is my knees and legs; that's what really gets you sometimes," Hornstein said. "I've got some arthritis, and if I stay in one place too long, it's painful."
Hornstein is one of the 3.3 million Americans who "stretch commute" more than 50 miles to work, according to a 2004 U.S. Department of Transportation study.
"It affects people's health and family life," said commute management expert Dave Rizzo of Fullerton. "In the winter, there are some people who never see their house in the daylight. It gets to you after a while. It's very depressing."
Called "Dr. Roadmap," Rizzo is the author of "Survive the Drive: How to Beat Freeway Traffic in Southern California." He says studies show that stretch commutes can lead to mental and physical problems, including high blood pressure and increased heart rate and stress levels.
Long-distance commuting can also contribute to back and neck pain, short-term memory loss, a decreased tolerance of frustration, lack of sleep and an increase in illness and illness-related absences from work.
(27 November 2007)
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A local approach to easing gridlock
Patrik Jonsson, Christian Science Monitor
Planners raise local funds for innovative projects instead of relying on state and federal money.
Coming soon to a bottleneck near you:
•"Queue-jumper" lanes such as one in Lee County, Fla., where harried drivers paying a 25-cent toll can get around backed-up intersections.
•Trucker toll lanes, already under consideration in Atlanta, that will in effect segregate big rigs from the rest of the freeway public.
•Privately managed zoom lanes, similar to the South Bay Expressway that opened in San Diego on Nov. 19, that allow motorists to move at a heavenly 65 miles per hour.
With 55 of the nation's 85 densest population centers estimated to have Los Angeles-style road congestion within the next 20 years, local road planners are increasingly blowing by the stagnant revenue from state and federal fuel taxes and instead raising their own money to build new roads and optimize existing roadways.
Head winds include the risk of political failure as Americans not only balk at more taxes, but also resist the prospect of foreign companies swooping in to manage toll roads in the land of Ford and Chevy.
(27 November 2007)
Driving the country crazy
Andrew Clark, Guardian
The price of petrol may be soaring into the stratosphere - but that hasn't stopped millions of Americans from dashing across the country for a turkey dinner.
The AAA Auto Club reckons 38.7 million Americans travelled more than 50 miles to Thanksgiving this year. That's 13% of the population and it beat last year's record of 38.1 million.
About 31.2 million were set to drive, while 4.7 million planned to brave hazardously overcrowded airports.
After a summer of delays on the roads and in the skies, there was much anxiety about the transport system's ability to cope with the strain. Acknowledging the problem, President Bush said Thanksgiving was becoming "a season of dread for too many Americans".
He temporarily threw open military airspace to create an "express lane" for flights passing over the eastern seaboard - a move likened to allowing cars to drive on the hard shoulder during the rush hour.
... In the air, the problem is partly down to virtually unfettered liberalisation. The New York Times reported this week that the number of flights at the Big Apple's JFK airport has jumped by 20% since caps on peak-time movements were lifted by Congress at the beginning of the year, leading to impractical timetables.
On the roads, it seems politically impossible for lawmakers to suggest that Americans should drive less often. Even environmentally aware politicians merely talk of cleaner fuel, rather than urging people onto trains or buses.
Paul Tonko, head of New York state's Energy Research and Development Authority charged with tackling climate change, laughed out loud when I recently asked him if his authority was doing anything to urge people out of their cars.
He suggested this was a thoroughly European question: "The difference might be a socialist model rather than a capitalist model."
(27 November 2007)