23 April, 2007

"Extreme Commuting"

No wonder so many Dubaians are increasingly depressed and frustrated with life here. According to Harvard political scientist Robert Putnam:

“I was shocked to find how robust a predictor of social isolation commuting is... There’s a simple rule of thumb: Every ten minutes of commuting results in ten per cent fewer social connections. Commuting is connected to social isolation, which causes unhappiness.”

From the same article, University of Zurich researcher Alois Stutzer:

“People with long journeys to and from work are systematically worse off and report significantly lower subjective well-being... According to the economic concept of equilibrium, people will move or change jobs to make up for imbalances in compensation. Commute time should be offset by higher pay or lower living costs, or a better standard of living. It is this last category that people apparently have trouble measuring. They tend to overvalue the material fruits of their commute—money, house, prestige—and to undervalue what they’re giving up: sleep, exercise, fun.

Of course here most people aren't doing a long commute by choice, to save more money. They're living in Sharjah because they cannot financially afford to live in Dubai: the rents are actually higher than their income.

And let us not forget the growing numbers of people who commute back to a tiny, empty room or apartment because they have been forced to repatriate their families for economic reasons.


John B. Chilton said...

Thanks for the article, sd.

B.D. said...

That seems like such an over-generalization without regard for specifics, which I would think would vary widely from locale to locale, person to person, etc. I didn't read the article but it seems the conclusion reached would've been based primarily on people who commute alone in their cars. If you're car-pooling or taking public trans, there is the potential for social interaction. And as you pointed out
SD it depends on what you're commuting to and from. If to a lousy job or from a lonely or unhappy home, then the commute might be the best part of the day!

fake balushi said...

In Olden days, our ancestor were living on Mountains... in night if they had to pee or other stuff, they would have to communte Up and down the mountains, because the toilets were beneath.

BuJ said...

hmm thoughtful, and sad, but you have a good point!

i wouldn't call it an over-generalisation bd.. it's like calling all contractors bad.. now that ain't fair :)

plus generalisation by definition is an extreme, so using "over" with it is kinda like shooting the bird twice.

Harsha said...

Well I always told my friends about how the whole traffic situation has taken a toll on people's social life in Dubai.

From experiance, we've often been forced to cut short on plans because of not being able to make it.

Sometimes, everyone cant make it if living too far away from the venue.

Inspite of having numerous buses to go to a point, no one likes to get dressed and wait at a bus top for an hour, only to be dissapointed and return home. Forget social life, I dont know how ppl going to work manage to keep up their spirits after being drenched in sweat before you even get to work.

And about the airconditioned bus stops, how does replacing numerous parking spaces for making a bus stop help?

Having your own car doesnt help either, sometimes the thought of getting stuck in traffic and spending hours looking for parking, only to return every hour to through in some coins, isnt very appealing (because it may involve walking a distance for putting another ticket).

People who live with their families can still make do with the situation. I wonder how bachelors and the like get going.

Anonymous said...

well we all know of this problem....unless you have a solution then there is no point discussing it

archer14 said...

B.d, I don't think you've understood what 'social interaction' means here. It doesnt mean striking a conversation with the smug faced elite bus farers of dubai. It means having sometime to do your own social interaction other than come home and run that algorithm in an endless loop every single day.
The commute isn't the best part of the day, because this commute is your own personal time going to waste.

secretdubai said...

From experiance, we've often been forced to cut short on plans because of not being able to make it.

I no longer go to any evening events - such as launch parties, gala dinners, cocktail receptions - just because it's impossible to get there from Jebel Ali in the evenings. I've missed some really nice events too.

I have twice had to cancel medical/dental appointments after setting off from home a good hour beforehand, and realising it was going to take well over two hours to get to Jumeirah.

I rarely see friends who live on SZR any more because it is just too hard to get there. I used to meet up with people in Emirates Towers quite often (every week) - I have probably been there at night no more than three times in the last two years.

I don't mean this as some bleeding sob story - big deal, so I can't go out, at least I don't have a nightmare commute to Sharjah like so many poor souls. I mean it to indicate the kind of effect traffic has on a person's regular life.

I honestly wonder - despite the population increase - how places like the J W Marriott are doing compared to five years ago. You used to have to book Bamboo Lagoon buffet well in advance - is that still the case? Are all the restaurants at the Sheraton and the Hilton Creek doing a roaring trade? Verre probably is because of the novelty, but what about the others?

In the early days I knew so many people Jumeirah-way who went to those places regularly; now most rarely go to Bur Juman, let alone cross the bridge.

fellow atheist said...

I don't cross the creek from Bur Dubai at all costs. The only time I do this is when I absolutely have to (e.g. trip to the airport).

I think very hard before I make an appointment anywhere. I reconsider plans, depending on which direction they're supposed to take me.

I used to make the trip to Ajman for my alcohol supply.. I haven't done that in over 6 months. I don't drink much, so it hasn't really been an issue -- but I don't even consider making such a trip. The occasional friend coming through the airport always grabs me a bottle of wine or such.

All in all, I am anxious to see the Metro come to life. I really really hope that it is what I hope it would be. A viable alternative to having your own car.

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