Commuting to work, in exchange for the good life

December 31, 2007

To keep small-town life, about half drive 30+ miles per day

By Lynda Jensen

When it comes to small-town life, coupled with driving long distances to work, most local residents seem comfortable with striking this bargain, according to state demographer’s statistics.

In local cities, more than three-fourths of local drivers are willing to drive out of town for work. See graph.

Winsted is somewhat of an exception, since figures there show an even mix of country and city workers, with 39 percent of drivers working less than nine minutes away, and 35 percent driving more than 30 minutes.

Waverly features an average percentage of commuters, but with one quarter of them driving longer than 45 minutes to work, which isn’t usual for other cities sampled.

About half of drivers in Howard Lake, Mayer, New Germany and Montrose drive 30 minutes or longer to work.

Curt Forst of Howard Lake commutes, driving 30 to 35 miles per day to Glencoe. It’s worth it to enjoy his home in Howard Lake, but commuting does affect the time left over for home life. “It makes a difference,” he said.

“It’s hard, because I like living in Winsted,” agreed Greg Davidson, who drives 20 miles to Waconia each day.

However, Davidson likes living in Winsted, along with the lower property taxes and small-town life there, which makes it well worth it.

“I like to go into the co-op and say ‘Hi’ to Tom and Gary,” he said. “I like to stop at Keaveny’s and talk to Daisy,” he said.

He averages about 200 miles per week, which is doubled when you consider that his wife, Donna, also works in Waconia.

Davidson also noted that gas prices are an issue. “I hate the cost of gas,” he said.

Gas prices are a reality for all commuters, with prices ranging from $2.79 in Howard Lake to $2.89 in Mayer and Lester Prairie Thursday.

Tim Dobmeier of Cokato commutes 39 miles, from Cokato to Plymouth.

He and his wife enjoy the small-town atmosphere in Cokato, and this makes the drive worth it, he said. In order to get to work on time, he leaves at 4:45 a.m.

The gas is also a strain on the pocketbook, but still worth it, he added.

In general, Minnesota ranks in the top 15 nationally both for the growth in numbers of commuters and the rate of that growth – and close to the top among northern states.

This number grows by 10,000 people each year, census figures show. See graph on population growth. More than 300,000 commuters across the state are out the door by 6 a.m., nearly twice as many as in 1990.

As for growth of each city, Mayer is expected to once again eclipse its previous population figures, with a projected estimate from the Met Council of 3,900 in 2010, and 7,000 people in 2020.

Even though there are 168 vacant lots in Mayer, the population estimates are based on the newly platted future lots proposed in Mayer, commented Todd Graham of the Met Council.

Related link: Have you witnessed Road Rage on the way to work? Click here.