I think gas has increased by at least 70 cents a gallon since I started working this past September. It’s certainly not been easy.

I recently thought I could take the commuter train but then real life got in the way. I compared the costs of the train against what I was spending in gas and realized I’d have to buy gas anyway, for the times when I was not at work and I did not anticipate saving that much. In addition, my schedule is such that buying a monthly pass didn’t make much sense, if I could only use it half of the time, potentially.

Sure, you save money when you take public transportation, but you find yourself having to follow a more rigid schedule, which may not work for every job. And if you want to do something after work you have to either figure out how to get there via public transportation or do extra planning to drive.

Telecommuting, on the other hand, has been helpful. I work several days a week from home and it’s worked out very well. In fact, I find myself starting work even sooner on those days. I drive on average two hours a day to and from work and those two hours add up on my telecommuting days.

That said, here are some data from outplacement firm Challenger, Gray and Christmas about how companies have responded to higher gas prices:

  • 23 percent of respondents’ companies offer condensed workweeks, for example, four 10-hour days
  • 18 percent of companies subsidize employees’ use of public transportation
  • 14 percent have expanded telecommuting options
  • one in five companies organize employee carpools

Thirty-four percent of companies said that they’ve had job seekers turn down job offers because of commuting costs. You would think the job applicant would have thought about that before interviewing. (Note: the survey results come from interviews of 100 HR executives.)

Separately, apparently job seekers have lost their enthusiasm for long commutes. In February, 37 percent of survey respondents said they wouldn’t travel more than 10 miles for a job. Thirty percent said they’d be willing to go 20 miles. Only 15 percent would travel more than 20 miles. This information comes from a SnagAJob.com survey.

My current commute is roughly 15 miles, probably one of the longest I’ve had. But it’s worth it.

If you find yourself trying to make some commuting decisions look at all your options and see what your company offers. If they don’t offer telecommuting or carpooling or condensed weeks, it may be worthwhile to ask to get them started.

May 21, 2008