The Commuter’s Paradox

It is difficult to blog when there’s so much to do. That’s why I haven’t been writing, only posting interesting articles from other blogs. Here’s a recent article from Jonah Lehrer’s The Frontal Cortex I can identify with:

Why is traffic so unpleasant? One reason is that it’s a painful ritual we never get used to – the flow of traffic is inherently unpredictable. As a result, we don’t habituate to the suffering of rush hour. (Ironically, if traffic was always bad, and not just usually bad, it would be easier to deal with. So the commutes that really kill us are those rare days when the highways are clear.) As the Harvard psychologist Daniel Gilbert notes, “Driving in traffic is a different kind of hell every day.”

But if commuting is so awful, then why are our commutes getting so much longer? (More than 3.5 million Americans spend more than three hours each day traveling to and from work.) In my book, I cite the speculative hypothesis of Ap Dijksterhuis, a psychologist at Radboud University in the Netherlands, who argues that long-distance commuters are victims of a “weighting mistake,” a classic decision-making error in which we lose sight of the important variables:

Consider two housing options: a three bedroom apartment that is located in the middle of a city, with a ten minute commute time, or a five bedroom McMansion on the urban outskirts, with a forty-five minute commute. “People will think about this trade-off for a long time,” Dijksterhuis says. “And most them will eventually choose the large house. After all, a third bathroom or extra bedroom is very important for when grandma and grandpa come over for Christmas, whereas driving two hours each day is really not that bad.” What’s interesting, Dijksterhuis says, is that the more time people spend deliberating, the more important that extra space becomes. They’ll imagine all sorts of scenarios (a big birthday party, Thanksgiving dinner, another child) that will turn the suburban house into an absolute necessity. The pain of a lengthy commute, meanwhile, will seem less and less significant, at least when compared to the allure of an extra bathroom. But, as Dijksterhuis points out, that reasoning process is exactly backwards: “The additional bathroom is a completely superfluous asset for at least 362 or 363 days each year, whereas a long commute does become a burden after a while.”

Just 2 days ago, I was given this flyer at Buona Vista MRT. Note: I’m not paid to advertise this, but as you will find out, I have every incentive to do so.

Our solution is the answer to your commuting needs!

iCOM is a commuting service-provider. We plan and provide customised routes to groups of iCOMmuters with similar origin-destination requirements.

Once a route is identified, a pool of private coach operators would bid for the route. In this way, we bring up competitiveness and we bring down costs. These cost-savings would go to the iCOMmuters! All these air-conditioned coaches (with high back rests) have been audited to ensure cleanliness and comfort are not compromised.

I doubt I will sign up for it, but you can check it out here if you’re interested.

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