Fighting a domestic war called traffic jams

We only have to look out our windshields for proof: Commuting traffic is getting worse. But now there’s scientific proof in the form of a new report from the National Academies.

We are leaving home earlier — more and more often before 6 a.m., driving farther and longer, on the order of an hour or more, making more stops on the way and, by and large, doing it alone.

All of this must drive the traffic planners nuts, because every time they get their hands on the problem, it moves.

The traditional commute from suburb to city is a dwindling custom. More workers now commute from the city to the suburbs than visa versa, and more and more workers are commuting from suburb to suburb, often one in another county. And they can do it in a choice of cars because most households now have more cars than workers.

One might expect the commute to lighten up when the baby boomers begin retiring, but the preliminary indications are that they’ll keep on working and commuting. In the ’90s, the over-65 population increased by 12 percent, but the number of over-65 workers increased by 21 percent.

If there is a bright spot to this, it’s the commuting behavior of recent immigrants, who are far more likely than their new countrymen to carpool, bike, walk or take public transportation to work.

However, after they’ve been here five years or more, they have assimilated American commuting habits and drive just like the rest of us — alone.

For more depressing information on commuting and why it’s likely to get still worse, the study is available at

(Contact Dale McFeatters at McFeattersD(at)