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Thread: Reverse commuters

  1. #1
    Cyburbian Luca's avatar
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    Reverse commuters

    I found this article very interesting (it's from "Otis White's Urban Notebook")

    I definitely think that if for any reason i had to work in the burbs I'd try a reverse commute from town (assumign I could afford to live in town)

    Years ago, when I lived in Chelsea (London's, not NYC's), my wife reverse commuted out to Bromley. She actually had some difficulty swinning against the tide at the train station at times

    *****

    New York’s Reverse Commuters
    Nice Place to Work, But ...

    As cognitive scientists have long known, our minds play tricks on us. That is, we perceive things through the filters of our memories, prejudices, longings and beliefs. In short, we see what we want to see. But every once in a while, something comes along that makes us aware of how dated our mental filters are. So it is with the young hedge-fund employees of New York.

    First, though, about our dated filters: Most of us still see cities and suburbs as starkly different environments. In our mind’s eye, the city is work-oriented, fast-paced and commercial. It’s the place where serious work is done, but few willingly live. The suburbs, we think, are refuges from all this, places to escape the hurly-burly. Nice places to live, in other words, but you wouldn’t want to work there.

    This brings us smack into the young hedge-fund commuters of New York. As the New York Times reported recently, there’s something very odd about these 20-somethings who flow through Grand Central Station every morning and evening. They’re not headed in from the suburbs, they headed out, to the world’s hedge-fund capital, Greenwich, Conn. These people live in Manhattan; they work in the ’burbs.

    There are at least three head-turning aspects to this unusual commuting pattern. First is the fact that a sophisticated financial industry like hedge funds is located in Greenwich, and not Wall Street. Office rents and proximity to the founders’ suburban homes are probably the main reasons they’re there, but it also has something to do with the funds themselves. These are super-secret investment outfits that make decisions based almost entirely on financial analysis, unlike the stock market, which thrives on tips and rumors. Hence, they don’t need to be near Wall Street’s information buzz; they can be anywhere.

    Well, not just anywhere. They need to be close to the financial talent base, and that means New York — but not necessarily Manhattan. Hence, upscale Greenwich, which is served by a well-located commuter rail station. Many hedge-fund companies are in walking distance of that station.

    The second head-turner is that these well-paid young employees don’t live closer to work. Many could afford nicer, bigger house with a much shorter commute if they chose to live in any of a dozen nearby Connecticut towns. But the ones who do the hour-long reverse commute from Manhattan aren’t interested. “Greenwich is quiet, peaceful and clean,” one told the Times, “but I am 24 and single. I couldn’t imagine living in Greenwich.”

    This brings us to the third surprise: Even financial analysts don’t decide where to live based on economics alone. This is significant because many observers have attributed the urban revival of the past 15 years to the crushing cost (in time and money) of commuting. That is, they think, the only reason urban neighborhoods are gentrifying is because the traffic has gotten so awful. And yet the hedge-fund commuters of New York show us something else entirely: They live in the city because they actually like the city’s diversity, density and pace. And Greenwich? Nice place to work, but you wouldn’t want to live there.

    The message for big-city leaders is clear: If you want the revival to continue, heighten the urban experience, don’t diminish it.

    Footnote: So how many of these young employees live in Manhattan but work at hedge funds in Greenwich? Hard to say. Hedge funds are secretive about everything, including their employees’ ages and home addresses. But the Metro-North Railroad told the Times that the number of commuters from Manhattan to Greenwich had grown by 150 percent in the past 10 years. The 7 a.m. and 8:30 trains pulling out of Grand Central Station are packed, the newspaper added.

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    Life and death of great pattern languages

  2. #2
    Unfrozen Caveman Planner mendelman's avatar
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    Nothing really new about this. I reverse commute (bascially). I live in an old first ring suburb of Chicago. My apartment is about 9 miles immediately west of Chicago's Loop. But I work in one of the larger suburban municipalities (which has a lot of employment itself) about 25 miles northwest of Chicago's Loop. From my suburb, I commute 30 miles from suburb to suburb, never even touching any part of the City of Chicago.

    In the midwest (particularly Chicagoland), most of the commuting in large metros is suburb to suburb and there is huge amount of 20-somethings commuting from the city out to the suburbs for work. But once those 20-somethings become 30-somethings with kids they invariably make the move to living and working in the suburbs.

    Once those hedge fund workers living in Manhattan get married and have children, they'll be doing the house hunting rounds in Greenwich or Stamford or Milford, CT (all three being adjacent to each other in southern Connecticut).
    I'm sorry. Is my bias showing?

    Let's not be didactic in this profession, because that is a path to disillusion and irrelevancy.

    Six seasons and a movie!

  3. #3
    Cyburbian nerudite's avatar
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    I've reverse-commuted for most of my jobs. I've always worked in suburban areas...

    I lived in midtown Sacramento for awhile when I worked for Davis, CA.
    I lived in Portland and commuted to Vancouver, WA
    Now I live in Edmonton and commute to my suburban job. I prefer big cities (and not be accosted in grocery stores by the local citizens for decisions I make on developments).

  4. #4
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    I live in South Euclid, an older, more urban inner-ring suburb east of Cleveland. I have a 27 mile/43 kilometer outcommute to a small industrial satellite city even further east of Cleveland. Some nights, I have meetings at even more distant exurban townships; it can be a 40 mile/64 kilometer drive back to my house.

    For me, the outcommute is worth it. I choose to live close to Cleveland for a variety of reasons; more peers, close to downtown and pedestrian-oriented neighborhoods in Cleveland Heights and Shaker Heights, close to University Circle, close to the JCC, more dining and entertainment options, a couple of miles from a rapid transit station, and the list goes on. The disadvantage: more young professionals live on the west side of Cleveland and in western suburbs such as Lakewood and Rocky River. If I lived there, my commute would be 50 minutes or more, and I'd be passing through downtown on my way to the far eastern suburbs.

    When I was in Denver, I had both an incommute and an outcommute. I lived on the west side of Denver, and my job was in an eastern suburb; the commute took me through downtown on the way to work in the 'burbs.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian
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    I reverse commute.

  6. #6
          bluehour's avatar
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    Reverse commuting is wicked bad in Portland, OR. Most of the big employers are in the suburbs... Intel, Nike, Google, etc

    Actually, Adidas USA is based in North Portland proper. I believe they based there as part of an urban renewal drive. (gentrification what?).

  7. #7
    Cyburbian Seabishop's avatar
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    I reverse commute 40+ miles each way for several of the reasons Dan mentioned:

    -I like living 10 minutes from downtown.
    -While the more suburban town I work for is "nice" it is too far removed from what I personally consider "urban civilization."
    -Trading my house for one here wouldn't be worth it.
    -Moving out here would place me away from the bigger job market in the urban area when the time comes for the next job.
    -Moving out here would just make my wife's commute longer and she has the additional responsibilities of taking the kids everywhere.

    There's no traffic - its the gas that's the killer.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian michaelskis's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Seabishop View post
    I reverse commute 40+ miles each way for several of the reasons Dan mentioned:

    -I like living 10 minutes from downtown.
    -While the more suburban town I work for is "nice" it is too far removed from what I personally consider "urban civilization."
    -Trading my house for one here wouldn't be worth it.
    -Moving out here would place me away from the bigger job market in the urban area when the time comes for the next job.
    -Moving out here would just make my wife's commute longer and she has the additional responsibilities of taking the kids everywhere.

    There's no traffic - its the gas that's the killer.
    I am in the same boat... 50 minutes door to door each way.

    I can walk 10 minutes and I am in the center core of Grand Rapids, or one of the neighborhood commercial nodes,
    The GF can walk to class and has a very short drive to work,
    Property values are expected to climb exponentially with all the new development going on in downtown,
    Interactive vibrant historic neighborhood,
    Phenomenal investment in our condo given the recent increase in prices of condo’s within the area.
    Not my monkey, not my circus. - Old Polish Proverb

  9. #9
    Cyburbian the north omaha star's avatar
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    I don't know if my commute is reverse or not. I live in central Baltimore City and my new job is in Columbia. Can any MD Cyburbians answer this question?
    I am recognizing that the voice inside my head
    is urging me to be myself but never follow someone else
    Because opinions are like voices we all have a different kind". --Q-Tip

  10. #10
    Cyburbian Emeritus Chet's avatar
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    I reverse commute and really enjoy my neighborhood. I wouldnt want to live in the suburban hell I work in.

  11. #11
    Yet more evidence of the collapse of the "bell curve" paradigm of the city, with the dense business in the middle and the leafy housing estates at the edge. Cities only work if they are decentralized and you can commute in any direction.

  12. #12
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by the north omaha star View post
    I don't know if my commute is reverse or not. I live in central Baltimore City and my new job is in Columbia. Can any MD Cyburbians answer this question?
    It is indeed, according to the Baltimore Metropolitan Council.

    I also live in Baltimore and work in the suburbs -- not far from Columbia, in fact. Having moved to the area to take the job, I initially chose to live close to work; however, the lack of other people in their twenties made me decide to move downtown at the first opportunity.

  13. #13
    Unfrozen Caveman Planner mendelman's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by jaws View post
    Yet more evidence of the collapse of the "bell curve" paradigm of the city, with the dense business in the middle and the leafy housing estates at the edge. Cities only work if they are decentralized and you can commute in any direction.
    Most large metros function this way currently. In Metro Chicago people commute between the City and suburbs and from suburb to suburb.

    Everyone going everywhere at any given time.
    I'm sorry. Is my bias showing?

    Let's not be didactic in this profession, because that is a path to disillusion and irrelevancy.

    Six seasons and a movie!

  14. #14
    Cyburbian Greenescapist's avatar
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    I've been reverse communting in the Boston area for about seven years. While the highway is much more congested going into the city, there are plenty of people like me, heading out to the suburbs for work.

  15. #15
    Cyburbian Bubba's avatar
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    A former co-worker did the reverse commute thing - he lived in Atlanta's intown Inman Park neighborhood, our office is out in the northwest metro area near the I-285/I-75 interchange. His morning outbound commute was quick and easy (say 15 minutes), but his inbound afternoon commute was just as stacked up as the outbound afternoon drive (30+ minutes some days)...especially on days when the Braves had a home game.
    I found you a new motto from a sign hanging on their wall…"Drink coffee: do stupid things faster and with more energy"

  16. #16
    Reverse commuting is more common than "traditional" commuting in many cities in the US, from Seattle to Philadelphia.

  17. #17
    Cyburbian Plus
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    My only experience was when I was in Grad School (UCD) lived in Denver and had an internship/pt job out in Golden.
    Out along 6th Ave.
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  18. #18
    Cyburbian the north omaha star's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Domo-kun View post
    It is indeed, according to the Baltimore Metropolitan Council.

    I also live in Baltimore and work in the suburbs -- not far from Columbia, in fact. Having moved to the area to take the job, I initially chose to live close to work; however, the lack of other people in their twenties made me decide to move downtown at the first opportunity.
    Thanks. I asked the question because there are so many people on I-95 and US 29 heading to work in the DC area.
    I am recognizing that the voice inside my head
    is urging me to be myself but never follow someone else
    Because opinions are like voices we all have a different kind". --Q-Tip

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    Quote Originally posted by the north omaha star View post
    Thanks. I asked the question because there are so many people on I-95 and US 29 heading to work in the DC area.
    Wow..small world..I grew up in the Columbia region...commuted to just outside of DC for 4 years. That direction is definitely not "reverse". I also worked in Balto. for about a year, that commute was actually less painful than going south.

  20. #20
    Cyburbian
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    Although my commute does not cover this particular area, San Diego has a strong "reverse commute." The heaviest concentration of office space is in the Sorrento Valley/Golden Triangle area (look for the convergence of I-5, I-805, and 52 on a map), while the downtown is a booming condo market. As a result, traffic patterns can often be worst in the evening heading from Sorrento Valley to Downtown, while the inverse is not as bad.

    In other words, the central point of San Diego's commute that sees people heading into in the morning/out in the evening is not so much downtown, but rather, Sorrento Valley.

    Orange County's similar center is near South Coast Plaza, near I-405 and 55.

  21. #21
    Cyburbian
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    I used to drive from the west los angeles area to the Santa Clarita Valley 40 miles north of LA. In the morning it was a breeze of a drive once i got into the San Fernando Valley (in LA proper, traffic was steady, but i also left for work pretty early) and I could see all the Valley-ites sitting in god awful heading into or through the pass towards the westside of LA. On the way home it was the same, no traffic until I got to the pass, and on the way down into the westside, i would hit bumper to bumper traffic.

  22. #22
    Suspended Bad Email Address teshadoh's avatar
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    And shouldn't reverse commuters receive the same level of grief for those that commute from the suburb to the city? Someone had said they didn't want to contribute to 'sprawl' by living 10 miles away from his workplace in a suburban area, so he moved 20+ miles further in the city so he could drive further. But his excuse is that he is now in the city - hence it doesn't 'sprawl'. Being the asshole I am - I said he isn't anyway different than a suburbanite driving to the city.

    But... my wife & I are debating being reverse commuters. Previously in Atlanta, she was a reverse commuter since we lived near downtown as I worked downtown. Now in Boulder, we realize we're not cut out for the scent of patchouli & we want to move to Denver. Hopefully I'll be employed soon - a job in Boulder. Though we're planning on taking the bus & we will likely live a largely carless life in the city - I still wonder... Are we any different than the people we snub at.

  23. #23
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by teshadoh View post
    Though we're planning on taking the bus & we will likely live a largely carless life in the city - I still wonder... Are we any different than the people we snub at.
    Yes, in that reverse commuters ideally need fewer car for their day-to-day activities outside of work, and can carry out these activities in a more concentrated area.

  24. #24
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    I reverse commute from Buffalo to a suburb called Williamsville. In the morning I look over to the other side of the freeway and the cars are either sitting there or they're going pretty slow. Meanwhile I'm going 60 mph to my job. Same thing on the way home.

  25. #25
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by WoohWee View post
    I used to drive from the west los angeles area to the Santa Clarita Valley 40 miles north of LA. .
    At least you reversed communted. I dont understand how people in Santa Clarita or Riverside can waste a good portion of thier lives in traffic. I grew up in a car freindly sub urban city and then moved to West LA for 3 years. Driving to everyday activities like going to the store stressed me out. I was resolute that once I finished school that if I was still living in LA I would live close to work and save the stress and time in my life. I ended up going across the country for grad school but I refuse to commute.

    Do people generally have a adversion to living close to where they work? I have heard my freinds in LA that live close to thier offices complain that they see the same scenery day after day but that seems like a lame excuse to me.

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