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Best Ways to Improve Your Commute

Updated on March 9, 2014
A daily nightmare.
A daily nightmare. | Source

It’s 0-dark-thirty. Your bed is nice and warm. You’re at the sweetest part of your sleep when BEEP - BEEP - BEEP! The alarm goes off. You’ve hit the snooze button too many times already and now you must face what the clock has been trying to tell you for the past twenty minutes – get up. You have to drag yourself out of bed and get ready for another day at the office. But the journey between your home and the job can make or break your entire day. There are ways you can increase these chances of having your day made by improving your commute. Consider trying some of these tips to improve your mood and alertness while heading into work.

5 to 10 minutes of sleep in the morning can help you be productive for the day.
5 to 10 minutes of sleep in the morning can help you be productive for the day. | Source

Take a nap

You’re still half asleep anyway. So if you’re on a bus or train and your stop isn’t coming up anytime soon, get some shut eye! It will definitely give you an energy boost by the time you get to your desk or work station. Sneaking in 5 to 20 minutes of sleep, especially after a rough night, will help you be more productive during the day. According to the Census Bureau, the average commute time is 25 minutes. Here are some other statistics on commuting in the U.S. alone:

  • Washington, DC has the highest rate of out-of-state commuters at 25.2 percent of the commuting population. Seventy-two percent of DC workers live outside of DC.
  • New York has the highest rate of long commutes, followed by Maryland and New Jersey
  • Over 10 million commuters in the U.S. have a travel time of 60 minutes or longer; 4 million of those commuters use public transportation.
  • Approximately 8% of commuters had a travel time of 60 minutes or longer according to a 2011 survey.

(United States Census Bureau, 2013)

So on general terms, there is enough time to close your eyes for a few minutes if you’re not behind the wheel. If you’re like many other commuters who travel long distances to get to work, getting a few minutes of sleep on your way in will do you some good. You’ll wake up refreshed and rejuvenated in going about your day.


Catch up on your reading

Have you started that one good book but never got around to finishing it? What about those crossword puzzles? Better yet, you can get a head start on that project your boss assigned to you. If you engage in some type of reading during your commute, it will help take your mind off the woes of going into work. If you’re not the type that will fall asleep on a train or bus, pull out a newspaper, book or report and get a head start on news for the day or prepare those numbers together for your presentation. Not only are you being proactive and productive, but you’re waking yourself up by the time you reach your destination. Reading can actually make your commute more enjoyable if you see it as a way of getting things done without being interrupted. Instead of dreading your commute, take control of it by getting some good work done.

Invest in good headphones and music players

If the noise and rumbles of the bus and train prevent you from sneaking in that nap, headphones and good music can put you in your own space of peace while heading into work. Once you’re tuned into your favorite playlist or radio station, you can read that book or just get some sleep in before your stop comes. For many people, good music makes a world of difference when faced with the hustle and bustle of a daily commute.

For those of you driving in on your own (which is a lot of you according to the statistics), have a playlist on your mp3 player set up for your commute – one that will wake you up and even put you in a good mood. You can also find a good radio station where the dj’s are engaged in stimulating or silly conversations that will help you get a good laugh for your morning commute. You’ll be less irritated by bad drivers, and you won’t feel the pain of sitting in traffic for the next hour.

Another perk from making these investments is, you’re improving your mental health. Research studies show that music calms the mind of the stressed commuter – whether they’re behind the wheel or frustrated on the train. The music doesn’t have to stop once you enter your work place. Keep it playing throughout the day (if job regulation permits) because it will help raise moral and keep disagreements at a minimum.

Top 10 cities around the globe with the worst commute
Mexico City
New Delhi
Sao Paolo
Buenos Aires
Is your city listed? (Smartplanet, 2014)
Commuting has taken a very consuming role in everyday life.
Commuting has taken a very consuming role in everyday life. | Source

Take a different route

Try exploring other options you can use to get to work. Is there a shorter bus route? Is carpooling available in your area? What about commuter buses? Depending on where you live, you have some options available for you. The commute can be irritating if you’re sick and tired of seeing the same route with the same problems every day. See if you can get a change of scenery. With the larger cities, there are more options. For example, on certain days you can take the train instead of the bus because it’s faster. If it’s more expensive, look into other possibilities (i.e. biking, starting a carpool).

For drivers, there may be an undiscovered back road that will ease the traffic pain – it may be a longer stretch of road but at least you’ll be moving versus crawling for 90 minutes. On your day off, drive around and test different ways to get to work. This one task alone is enough to encourage your brain to be more alert and productive for you.

Download some awesome apps on your phone

You can get even more done during your commute with certain phone apps. You can arrange a new music playlist, get a good look at the commute ahead, or organize your projects while riding into work. Engaging in these activities can definitely make the commute less painful. Here are some free apps to look into:

  • Pocket – lets you bookmark stories you may want to read for later. It’s free and no internet connection is required.
  • Songza – you can arrange playlists based on your mood, time of day etc.
  • Inrix Traffic – get a heads up on what traffic entails for the day.
  • Smartpark – big perk for drivers who forget where their car is parked. This is especially good for those who park in parking garages.
  • GasBuddy – Looking for cheap gas? Who isn’t? Download this app to find the cheapest gas stations near your location.
  • Hopstop – for those with the environment in mind and opt to use public transportation. You can find the best route to use via bus, train, taxi and even by foot.


Change your work hours

If you have this option, look into changing your work schedule. In most cities, people leave for work between 6 and 7 am. If you’re willing to get up earlier, try leaving before everyone else gets on the road. Not only will you beat traffic, you can have a lighter drive home in the evening as well. There are also people who come into work after the rush hour has died down. Depending on the city, some days has heavier traffic than others, so you can plan around that as well. If possible, try working from home on the heavier traffic days.

The morning commute has become a huge part of everyday life in most cities. Many of us are not able to avoid it, nor do we have the luxury of moving closer to the job or finding something that’s down the road from our house. We can make the best of it and take everyday as a learning experience.


What do you do to improve your commute?

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    • profile image


      3 years ago

      Hello Mam, Some years ago I had a VERY vivid dream that I was flying very high above the earth on the back of a White Eagle. I felt ver calm and safe and peuacfel. Out perched on its wing to my right as we were soaring was a Black Vulture calmly sitting there. Can you shed light on any meaning to me? I have had dreams a few more times over the years similar to this and wonder if this should mean something to me ..Thank You for any Help .Jeff

    • profile image


      3 years ago

      hello,I just wished to write to say how much I've eoenyjd reading your site. I am part cherokee on my mother's side and my sister is half blackfoot on her father's side. we are half sisters actually as you can see. but anyway I love anything and everything to do with the Native American culture. I also have a friend who is always looking for new info on this as well and I am having a problem with finding information about her birth totem. Her birthday is September 13 If you could help me I'd be grateful as I say she loves Native American stuff as I do. Also I noticed you do crafts. I do too and am looking for a crochet pattern for a native american girl dress to do for a project I'm working on. If you may have any ideas or could help in any way I'd be grateful. Sorry if I've rambled I take medication due to a serious ailment which has left me bedbound. Thanks again for any and all help!!!!

    • Zainab Tarawali profile imageAUTHOR

      Musu Bangura 

      4 years ago from Nation's Capital

      KoraleeP, thanks for commenting. You're right - working from home is not an option for everyone. But I honestly think that may change down the road with telework options becoming more available in offices. A lot more people could be working from home. Thanks for the vote up!

    • Zainab Tarawali profile imageAUTHOR

      Musu Bangura 

      4 years ago from Nation's Capital

      CraftytotheCore, I know it definitely must have been worth it for you. Peace of mind is everything for me - especially if you're in a convenient location.

    • Zainab Tarawali profile imageAUTHOR

      Musu Bangura 

      4 years ago from Nation's Capital

      Hi heidithorne. I don't blame you and billybuc one bit. It can be really bad some days. Until I'm able to work from home, I have to tough it out! Lol! Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

    • heidithorne profile image

      Heidi Thorne 

      4 years ago from Chicago Area

      Agree with billybuc and KoraleeP! My commute is to my home office. I save money, as well as wear and tear on vehicles.

    • CraftytotheCore profile image


      4 years ago

      I shudder when I think of commuting. Before I had my children, I worked in a busy law firm. I moved an hour away from the city to a more rural area. I commuted by car to a train station, then took a train in to the city. I still had to walk 6 blocks to the office every day.

      Now I appreciate the fact that everything is very close to home or in walking distance.

    • KoraleeP profile image

      Koralee Phillips 

      4 years ago from Penticton British Columbia Canada

      I agree with Billy...the best commute, is no commute at all. Since this is not an option for everyone, your suggestions are really good. When I used to work full-time downtown (I live in Edmonton AB Canada), I would change my work hours, and that worked wonders.

      But all of your suggestions are great :). Voting up and sharing!

    • Zainab Tarawali profile imageAUTHOR

      Musu Bangura 

      4 years ago from Nation's Capital

      billybuc, I'm definitely moving towards working from home! Right now the commute is not too bad, but it definitely has its days. Thanks for commenting! :)

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I improved my commute greatly by working from home. LOL I took a look at that first picture of the freeway congestion and I shuddered. I once fought that battle, but never again will I do that. Anyway, great suggestions here for the poor souls who have to commute daily.

    • Zainab Tarawali profile imageAUTHOR

      Musu Bangura 

      4 years ago from Nation's Capital

      Thanks Millionaire Tips. It's unfortunate because people have to actually plan their whole lives around their commute. It can be rough especially if you work in a major city and live far away. Thanks for commenting!

    • Millionaire Tips profile image

      Shasta Matova 

      4 years ago from USA

      These are great suggestions to enjoy your commute. It seems like such a big part of the day is wasted just traveling back and forth. It is truly about the attitude.

    • Zainab Tarawali profile imageAUTHOR

      Musu Bangura 

      4 years ago from Nation's Capital

      FlourishAnyway, it really is crazy. I've met people who commute from Delaware and Pennsylvania just to work in DC. I can't imagine how they do it everyday. Hopefully they'll come across this hub and will find the information useful.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image


      4 years ago from USA

      My sister and her husband used to commute to DC from West Virginia via train. Crazy. You have some good ideas here for people stuck in the rat race.

    • Zainab Tarawali profile imageAUTHOR

      Musu Bangura 

      4 years ago from Nation's Capital

      Hi wilderness. In the DC area now, no matter what time of day it is, your bound to run into crazy traffic. I tried commuting from VA for a while, but couldn't take it anymore and moved closer to DC to start taking the bus. The worst day of the week though is Friday evenings. Anything after 2pm - you're done. Whether you're going to VA or MD, you're likely to suffer in bumper to bumper traffic.

      Thanks for the feedback!

    • wilderness profile image

      Dan Harmon 

      4 years ago from Boise, Idaho

      Some good ideas hear. I'm not longer a commuter, but was for years and years. My neighbor commuted to D.C. - a 2 1/2 hour trip each way. He managed to change his schedule and the drive dropped to around an hour. Rush hour is not the time to travel on the roads.

    • Zainab Tarawali profile imageAUTHOR

      Musu Bangura 

      4 years ago from Nation's Capital

      Thanks! I'm glad you enjoyed it.

    • cecileportilla profile image

      Cecile Portilla 

      4 years ago from West Orange, New Jersey

      Nice hub with good suggestions!


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