CENTER LINE - Paid the cabbie $41, thanked God I was still alive

We got a letter one time from our insurance company wanting us to explain our driving habits who drives what car and how far do we drive. It was pretty simple. I drove one car, about a mile from home. My daughters took one car to school, about one mile from home. My wife, Jody, had the big commute ... she drives about a 1 1/2 miles to her job at Fisher-Titus Medical Center.
Norwalk Reflector Staff
Jul 25, 2010

We got a letter one time from our insurance company wanting us to explain our driving habits who drives what car and how far do we drive.

It was pretty simple. I drove one car, about a mile from home. My daughters took one car to school, about one mile from home. My wife, Jody, had the big commute ... she drives about a 1 1/2 miles to her job at Fisher-Titus Medical Center.

They questioned the numbers, so I explained to them we do live in Norwalk and everything is within a couple of miles. That's the way it works here.

I was reading a recent issue of U.S. News & World Report and their cover story about "America's worst commutes. Is yours one of them? Why we're losing the war on traffic."

It listed the 10 worst commuter cities, in minutes per compute to work, and there are no real surprises.

1. New York City 31.9 minutes.

2. Chicago 34.3

3. Philadelphia 31.9.

4. Newark 31.7.

5. Boston 30.4.

6. Los Angeles 29,6.

7. Washington 29.3.

8. Riverside, Calif. 29.3.

9. Long Beach, Calif. 28.8

10. San Francisco 28.7.

That's the average. So for everybody like my wife and I who spend about five minutes in the car, there are others who spend hours. Can you imagine living in New York City and spending more than an hour in traffic each day? If you lived in Norwalk, that would be like driving to Clyde. In New York, that means about four miles each way.

I get upset when I can't pull out of Vargo's with my foot-long coney dog and ice cream.

The Department of Transportation estimates that the demand for ground transportation either by road or rail will be 2 1/2 times as great by 2050, while highway capacity is projected to increase by only 10 percent during that time, according to the story written by Will Sullivan. The average household now has slightly more cars, 1.9, than drivers, 1.8.

The folks in my neighborhood can attest to that number. Between the Nolans, Centers and Steffannis, we have 10 vehicles for eight and a half drivers (one is working on her permit). Our end of the street looks like a used car lot.

The people who have it the hardest in the big cities are the professional drivers, more specifically, the cabbies.

Part-time New York cabdriver Sol Soloncha knows that all too well, according to Sullivan's story. "I'm a Buddhist," Sol said. "I do yoga, I practice meditation, and weekday traffic gets so bad that even I can't keep my composure during it."

Nick White and I were in Chicago two weeks ago for an interactive media conference and we got a first-hand look at just how tough it is to commute in a big city. White has lived in Los Angeles and New York City, so he is a veteran. Our late-afternoon trip from the hotel to Midway Airport should have taken about 20 minutes. We gave ourselves an hour and hoped for the best.

White was calm and cool. I was sweating and scared to death.

Our cabbie was a treat. I held on and prayed. At one point I could have reached out and touched the car next to us and this was in the south side of Chicago. We were so close I could read the vin number on the other guy's car. I kept looking around for Leroy Brown as we cut in and out of traffic.

About halfway through the ride I looked over and Nick was putting on his seatbelt. I knew then and there this was the real deal. The entire time our cabbie was yelling at and gesturing to the other drivers.

All of that for $41.

When he dropped us off, he picked up somebody else and did it all over again.

I just thanked God we were still alive.

I'll keep that in mind the next time I play stop and go with the old lady at the four-way stop sign at Elm Street and Linwood Avenue.