Before I became your editor here at Streetsblog Capitol Hill, I was a reporter for WTOP, the DC area’s “most-listened-to” radio station. Its traffic reports “on the 8s” helped feed my ire toward auto-centrism – they wasted one out of every 10 minutes of airtime on an unintelligible litany of route numbers and exits. Meanwhile, I only got 35 seconds for actual news stories.
WTOP assumes that most of its listeners are tuning in from inside their cars, and for that reason, the station focuses heavily on commuter issues. About 80 percent of its audience lives in the suburbs, so WTOP has a soft spot for people with long, solo car commutes from unwalkable places who get all road-ragey in rush hour traffic — crawling along no matter how good the traffic report is.
As part of its solidarity with extreme drivers, WTOP is launching its second season of what it calls “Commuter Idle” (I think that’s a pun on American Idol), in which listeners compete for the worst commute. They tell their horror stories of traffic jams and delays, and guess what the winner gets? Aside from radio fame and a limo ride to work, the unfortunate soul with the worst commute gets gas money. A thousand dollars to pour into their hellish daily slog.
Here at Streetsblog, we don’t “idle-ize” horrific car commutes. While one can sympathize with people who end up with long treks to work, especially if their financial circumstances and the sprawl of their region conspired to eliminate other options, “extreme commutes” are nothing to glorify.
So we’re taking this opportunity to launch what we’re calling “Commuter Idyll.” We’d like to hear from people who’ve made changes in their lives recently to make their commutes more enjoyable and less time-consuming.
Did you give up the drive for a refreshing, invigorating bike ride? Did you start taking the train so you can relax or read a paperback on your way to work? Did you move closer to the office – or get a new job closer to home – so you didn’t have to cover impossible distances?
Leave your story in the comments. Give as much detail as you want. Instead of gas money (who needs it?), we’ll mail you a copy of the anthology, “On Bicycles: 50 Ways the New Bike Culture Can Change Your Life,” to which Streetsblog Chicago editor John Greenfield contributed a chapter.
You could be Streetsblog’s first Commuter Idyll contest winner!
UPDATE 5/9: We’re still happy to hear your story, but we’ve chosen our winners and the contest is over.