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
Herald-Journal Editor

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.

Delano features higher than usual “mid-range” drivers, with 46 percent driving from 10 to 29 minutes a day to work.

Residents from Delano who are willing to drive more than 30 minutes a day amount to 39 percent of workers, according to US Census figures posted on www.city-data.com.

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, Rockford, Buffalo and Montrose drive 30 minutes or longer to work.

Alan Pokornowski of Cokato drives an average of 1,000 miles a week, working construction jobs in the Twin Cities and elsewhere.

He acknowledges that the travel time to the metro cuts into family life, but is well worth the price for living in Cokato, he said.

This means he leaves every morning at 5:45 a.m. to get to work.

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.

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.

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

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

Something that Pokornowski has noticed since the I-35W bridge collapse is that the alternate routes being used in lieu of this main artery are clogged up.

“The stress level is up,” for commuters he added, saying that shoulders are being used as real lanes and other such measures are in place, which makes the whole scenario less safe.

When it comes to commuters, 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. More than 300,000 commuters across the state are out the door by 6 a.m., nearly twice as many as in 1990.