Assumptions & Algorithms
We developed and tested a prototype CloseCommute web app for long commuters to arrange their own swaps and/or transfer favourites list. This app could be adapted to function on an internal-view-only, secure situation accessible only by employees from one employer (for example a bank) or only by employees from a collaborating group of employers (such as adjacent school districts). The app sends a user's home and work locations, and daily start-work and end-work times (with no other identifying information) via an API to Google Maps, requesting an immediate response with the distance of the quickest route for each leg and the associated duration. Through the magic of modern technology, we can be sending hundreds of such requests per second and receiving replies for each within a fraction of a second. Quite an improvement to the ruler-on-a-map and guestimating that Gene Mullins used when he oversaw the first demonstration of "proximate commuting" for Key Bank back in the mid-1990s.
We are not set up (yet) to have the user insert intermediate points to reflect going to the gym or picking up a child from school, etc. Nor have we set up whether or not someone who currently pays $80 per month for parking might save that expenditure at the new location (or pay more per month) or might switch to biking or walking or busing.
We use the term "annual commuting burden" which refers to the combination of total kilometres travelled, out-of-pocket transportation expenses, time spent commuting and greenhouse gas emissions (the latter calculated in CO2 equivalents). After receiving the distance and elapsed time for an individual's daily two-way commuting from Google Maps, we are using the following parameters and formulae for the Vancouver and Victoria regions:
- number of work days per year = 242
- for someone driving their own vehicle to and from work, costs are $0.51 per kilometre, plus $600.00 per year in parking and miscellaneous other costs, with a CO2 multiplier per km of .000138 to yield metric tonnes
- for someone taking transit, costs are $0.00 per kilometre, plus $1400.00 per year in bus pass fees, with a CO2 multiplier per km of .00011040
- for someone bicycling, costs are $0.00 per kilometre, plus $400.00 per year in bike maintenance, depreciation and miscellaneous other costs (spandex outfit, etc.), with a CO2 multiplier per km of .0 to yield metric tonnes
- for someone walking, costs are $0.00 per kilometre, plus $0.00 per year in other costs, with a CO2 multiplier per km of .0 to yield metric tonnes.
The above prices are in Canadian dollars. The formulae and multipliers are derived from direct and external cost calculators found in our annotated bibliography called "The Effects of Long Commutes and What To Do About Them" which is available for download on our Research page.
As we expand the web app's coverage to each metropolitan area, we will customize the parameters to reflect the local currency, prices and conditions.
What's the definition of a "close commute"? Great question! Our search of the literature did not yield any consensus about a definition for "short (or close) commute" nor for "long commute". We created our own definition of a "close commute" based on Statistics Canada's national household survey's classifications for mode of transportation and its 10-minute duration intervals. The duration is door-to-door, so a commute using public transit for 20 minutes includes walking to the bus stop and walking from bus to your workplace. Our definition of a "close commute" is as follows, for each direction:
- if driving a car, truck or van, ten minutes or less
- if taking public transit, 20 minutes or less
- if walking, 20 minutes or less
- if biking, 10 minutes or less.
Where a number of close commutes is represented as a fraction of all commuters, the complement would be "not close commuters." For occupations such as teachers and bank tellers, where their workplaces (schools and branches, respectively) are distributed fairly evenly across a metro region, generally there will always be at least one workplace within close commuting distance/duration from a person's home. For professions like airline pilot, this would not be the case, since there would be one, or only a few, airports in the region – which is why our analyses are focused on occupations with a great many people and many locations, such as teachers, nurses, retail sales people, police, firefighters, bank employees, etc.
Your home, work and play only a short hop apart …