Commuting to Jersey

If this is a case of Big Brother in action, it should be applauded as a justifiable safety measure.

Starting Monday, I'll be returning to my car to commute across state lines to the Inquirer's office in Cherry Hill. That's why I read the recent U.S. Census report on commuting with more than passing interest.

In driving from Philadelphia, where I live, to Cherry Hill, I'll be bucking the trend for Pennsylvanians. Not surprisingly, given the size of our state, only a minority of us travel across state lines to work. By contrast, one in six New Jersey types, and slightly more from Delaware, work outside their home states. One in four Americans work outside their home counties.

My commute to Cherry Hill should take me about 45 minutes, nearly double the average commute of 25.5 minutes. Thank God, I'm not among the 10.8 million people who travel an hour or more to work, or the mega-commuters like my friend Donna's daughter, who travels from Philadelphia to Newark by car and train, a commute well over 90 minutes. There are 600,000 people like her, the U.S. Census says. For years, one of my neighbors commuted to Manhattan. Why? He couldn't afford a house large enough to hold his family of eight daughters and a son. In Philly, his family filled a roomy twin.

Most commuters, four out of five, drive alone to work, although only three out of five of the 10.8 million long commuters drive alone. Many of them, about 23 percent, prefer public transit.

When I worked at the Inquirer's building on North Broad Street, I drove.

Now that we're at 8th and Market, I take the subway to work and the regional rail home.  Wednesday's subway commute was marked by the drama of an angry man kicking ad pushing people and their belongings. No one was hurt, and the situation resolved itself when the man got off the train at the next stop. During the rest of the trip, my fellow passengers and I had a rare group conversation about how the mental health system has failed people like that man. I won't miss the drama, but I will miss the random chances for interesting conversations with people I'd never otherwise meet.

During Thursday's subway commute, I finished a book that is helping me think about my work. Lots of people read newspapers on the subway, which I find heartening, for obvious reasons.

So, fellow commuters, as I return to my car, thanks for making my mornings interesting, and thanks for reading the paper.

(If you want to see how where people in your county work, click here and then click again on Table One. And click here to read my colleague Paul Nussbaum's Inquirer story on commuting patterns for the region.)