Archived Story

Getting around in my day

Published 10:45pm Wednesday, April 4, 2012

“In my day,” families only had one car. That car was primarily used for the breadwinner of the family to get to and from the workplace. That might be down the street and it could be several miles away but most people lived close to their workplace.
Moving to a new location was usually prompted by a new job and wanting to be close to work. Earlier when factories moved near residential areas it was to provide living space for workers so that they didn’t have to leave their homes.
For instance think of the steel mills in Chicago or Pittsburgh, coalmines in Virginia, which spawned coal-mining towns. Even New York City dwellers lived in the downtown area to be close to their offices.
Urban sprawl came along when cars became more plentiful and prices more reasonable.  Driving to work became a way of life and moving outside of the city was desirable.
Public transportation, streetcars, buses and trains became a way to get to work every day. Most people depend on them today.
Over the years, getting to work was an important fact of everyday living. The closer you lived to your job, the easier it was for family life to be maintained.
When work was a 15-minute ride, that was tolerable but when that was stretched to a half-hour and then to an hour, that cut into family and personal time. Many people travel two hours to and from work every day.
But times have changed. For many people getting on a bus or train or even getting into a car is no longer viable. The two-hour commute has become several hours of travel.
Many workers today are hopping on an airplane and flying to work. They are living in one major city and flying to another major city to work and returning a day later or several days later.
Good paying jobs now require several new ways to work. Not only flying to work, but staying home. Computers, telephone conference calls and Skype connect workers who never have to leave home to attend a business meeting.
A good example of this is my daughter, Janet, who lives in Phoenix, Ariz., and works in Raleigh, N.C. She is able to go home every other weekend.
Some are more fortunate and they may be away from home only three or four days or maybe even a week.
Even I am a good example to this. I am living in Tampa, Fla., for the winter and I can write this column and send it to Niles electronically — something that was outside my realm of imagination a few years ago.
This is a long way from the days of the farmer who lived at his work place or the storeowner who lived in the back or above the store.
What is in the future for the worker? Cars are crowding the streets and highways.
Cars and gasoline prices keep rising; will there be other ways to get to work?

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