commuting
In the United States, regularly taking public transportation isn't nearly as typical as it is in Europe, but that doesn't mean you should immediately cross it off as an option for your commute. (Illustration by Eunhye Cho, Laguna College of Art and Design)

It is only 10 minutes past 8 a.m. Incorporating commuting into your daily routine can sometimes be such a hassle. But as you look out the train window, you see the sun is just beginning to shine.

You listen to the latest daily report as you ride along the train tracks. Everyone else around is also looking at their own devices, waiting for their stops to arrive.

As the train approaches the next station, the conductor says, “Our next stop is Chinatown station,” through the PA speakers. You count, there’s four more stops before you have to get off.

Everyone who rides public transit takes it for different purposes. This summer, I have been commuting two hours by train every morning to go to work. As treacherous and time-consuming as it might sound, commuting to work hasn’t been all that bad.

In fact, this experience has taught me more than I was expecting. So, if you are debating whether or not to take your local public transportation to work or school, here are some pros and cons to wager. 

A Pro and a Con: Time

It is no doubt that time is the most contradictory topic with regard to this debate. Some people believe that commuting is too time-consuming, while the opposition believes that the time on the transit could be spent productively and wisely.

For me, I thought that commuting was going to be time-consuming at first. Because of my commute, I was compelled to wake up an hour earlier every morning.

The time spent during the commute also felt dreadful, like I was wasting part of my morning away that I could have either used to sleep in or do something else. However, the truth is that these excuses are all temporary.

As I’ve gotten into my new routine, I’ve come to realize that my issue with time is all perspective. The two hours I spend traveling in the morning became “me time,” where I often reflect, think and engage with myself.

It is also a time where I finally can begin reading that book that has been sitting on my bookshelf but never opened or listen to my podcast peacefully without interruptions.

Pro: Organization

With this new perspective on time, I also noticed that I became more disciplined and organized. Commuting, in general, takes a lot of meticulous planning and scheduling. Everything from what time I have to leave the house to when I should go to sleep at night have to be mapped out accordingly.

Even though this might sound tedious, I came to realize that it forms a good habit and benefits my general lifestyle in the long run. I know that since I have been waking up earlier, my circadian rhythm is set for when the school year starts again, and I won’t have a difficult time readjusting my routine.

Pro: Environment

One of the pleasant side benefits of offering public transportation in a city is that it gives people an option that’s somewhat environmentally friendly. Commuting via public transportation benefits the planet by leaving a smaller carbon footprint.

Global warming has been one of the biggest debates within the current political climate. However, actions speak louder than words. According to the Federal Transit Administration, using the public transportation system lends itself to improving the air quality, lessening carbon emission and benefiting economic development.

Con: Potential Danger

There is no such thing as a guaranteed safe public transportation system. Just like everything else in life, commuting via public transportation is unpredictable. Likewise, encountering a delay of trains is not only inevitable but also expected, just like anything else that could happen, even danger. You never know who is going to be on that bus or train when you board.

While most public transportation is very well equipped with security measures and personnel, it is still one of the most common places where harassment happens. A Reuters survey in 2017 ranked 16 major cities around the world with the safest public transportation. The survey found that in most major cities in Latin America, six out of 10 women have experienced harassment while riding on public transportation. The report calls it a “global phenomenon.”

In Japan, harassment on public transit has evolved virtually. According to the South China Morning Post, Japanese perverts, also known as “chikans,” are taking advantage of Apple’s AirDrop tool to share explicit — usually sexual — photos to surrounding Apple devices.

In one woman’s account, she recalled riding on a train in Nagoya when she suddenly received a photo of a man’s genitals on her mobile phone. “I was frightened, but I was always angry,” she said.

Con: Potentially Bad for Mental and Physical Health

It is scientifically proven that commuting has a direct correlation toward bad health. For many people, their morning commute sets the tone for the rest of their days.

If the commute in the morning was frustrating, it continues to affect your emotions later in the day. According to Scientific American, “commuting exacts considerable stress on the human mind and body and on family relationships.”

Sitting or standing for minutes, sometimes even hours (when you are not lucky enough to find a seat) on end, the anxiety and fatigue does overtake the mind. Several studies have shown that long-distance commuters suffer from psychosomatic disorders, which is where psychological stressors have an impact on one’s physical health.

In a 2001 study on this behavior conducted in Germany by the Center for Psychotherapy Research in Stuttgart and the University Clinic of Ulm, the scientists found that 31% of men and 37% of women from a pool 407 participants who have a 45 minutes or more to commute everyday are “clearly in need of treatment.”

Clearly, commuting is not for everyone, but it is something that everyone should try, in my opinion. Although, there have been occasions where delayed transit resulted in me being late for work, I truly appreciate the alone time I am able to have during my morning and evening commutes.

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