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Bay Area Woman Commutes 90 Miles One Way For Work


Super commuters are people who spend more than 90 minutes traveling to work every day. It's a rough way to live, but more and more people are doing it. Sam Harnett of KQED has the story of a super commuter who works in the San Francisco Bay area.

JODIE COLLINS: Let's see. I've got my trusty Hyundai Elantra.

SAM HARNETT, BYLINE: Jodie Collins needs a trusty ride. The 32-year-old drives to San Francisco from Sacramento. That 90-mile ride can take three hours one way. Jodie leaves early in the morning to avoid traffic.

COLLINS: I woke up at 4:45, left Sacramento around 6:30 to get here around 8. And - what time is it right now? It's, like, 11:30. So it's been kind of a long day so far. But I've still got a long rest of the day to go so...

HARNETT: Jodie is an on-demand, gig-working super commuter. She comes to the wealthy Bay area to drive for Lyft and do makeup and hair via on-demand stylist apps. Her trunk is filled with snacks, water and other essentials.

COLLINS: Yeah, I'm constantly prepared. And I've got a blanket back there and some flats just in case the shoes that I wear suck.

HARNETT: The blanket is for emergency naps. Jodie is doing hair today for a wedding party.

COLLINS: OK. Or do you want to have your makeup done first?

HARNETT: When she's done, she'll drive Lyft until about midnight. And then she'll finally get home at around 2 a.m. - 21 hours after she first woke up.

COLLINS: Do you want me to recurl some of your pieces over there?

HARNETT: Jodie hopes this gig work is just a stepping stone.

COLLINS: I mean, I've got really, really big dreams. As an entrepreneur, you know, I have big dreams to have a business called Jodie's Little Gems.

HARNETT: But with all the commuting, there's not much time to launch her business. She's also working to pay off 20 grand in debt from cosmetology school. Jodie says there's no safety net for gig workers like her. If just one thing goes wrong, it can wipe out the profit of her 18-hour work day. And lots can go wrong.

COLLINS: Speeding ticket, carpool lane ticket, flat tires...

HARNETT: The number of super commuters is increasing across the country.

TONY JACONE: My name is Tony Jacone. And I travel about two hours and 45 minutes each day for work.

HARNETT: That's near New York City. In Seattle, housing prices and traffic were so bad that Jayson Hicks and his wife moved to Idaho. And they now commute by plane.

JAYSON HICKS: So now we drive about 100 miles twice a week down to Boise, fly out for work.

HARNETT: Every day, Sean Wright suffers to get to Los Angeles from Riverside, Calif.

SEAN WRIGHT: The worst part is knowing how many hours I'm spending commuting - four hours a workday, 20 hours a week, 80 hours a month all spent commuting.

HARNETT: One out of every 36 Americans now spends over 90 minutes commuting. That's according to an analysis of census data by the rental market place Apartment List. This rise stems from the concentration of wealth and economic opportunity in cities. But there are other forces at play. Moving to a city might mean leaving family behind. And that isn't an option for Jodie Collins. She needs to be close to her brother, Jeffery.


COLLINS: Can you say, hi, Sam?


HARNETT: Jeffery had birth defects that led to lasting health problems.

COLLINS: He's had over 28 brain surgeries. He's had, like, nine hip and femur surgeries and, you know, pneumonia every winter and ICU, ICU, ICU, you know?

HARNETT: Miraculously, Jeffery has lived to 40. He spends his life in a day bed. And after work, Jodie helps her mom change his diapers and refresh his bedding. They listen to music together. And, of course, she cuts Jeffery's hair.

COLLINS: I just gave him a haircut the other day, faded his hair up real nice.

HARNETT: Jodie's work opportunities may be in the Bay Area, but her family and affordable living situation is in Sacramento. So for right now, she says there's no option but an insane commune.

JEFFERY: Trying to.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: I'm trying to, he says.

COLLINS: Ooh, that's a good one right there.

JEFFERY: Can I dance?

COLLINS: Yeah, yeah. Let's dance. Woo.

JEFFERY: Can I dance?


UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: You can dance, baby. Come on.

HARNETT: For NPR News, I'm Sam Harnett in San Francisco.

(SOUNDBITE OF MY DAD VS. YOURS' "BELLICOSE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Sam Harnett