I had lunch today with one of my favorite people. We talked about life and family, work and travel, traditions, vacations, and painting furniture. All of the things I love! The sun was shining (a rarity in DC these days) and the conversation flowed as natural as it always has between us. There is something special about sharing a worldview with similarities and commonalities while at the same time always having learned new things about myself and how I want to live the rest of your life by the time the conversation closes.
The topic turned to moving. As her young family continues to grow, she and her husband are exploring where to move their nest now that their nest needs a little more room. She asked me how I liked where I lived which was almost immediately followed with, "but how's the commute?" Every place has its pros and cons and one of the biggest on the list in the DMV (and many places I go) is traffic.
After talking about traffic, “normal commutes,” abnormal commutes, and departure times, it occurred to me that technology has the potential to fundamentally alter this conversation. My daily commute is defined by Waze. Not all have the same experience I do, but I have found it reliably accurate and have turned my commute over to Waze. When Waze tells me to turn left, I do it. If Waze tells me to stay straight, I do it.
While talking about our commutes I pulled out Waze and had the platform route me home – 17 miles, 25 minutes. My friend did the same. At that moment she was 25 minutes from home. While we live in very different areas, she much “closer” to the office than I, our commutes at that moment were exactly the same. It didn’t matter to either of us the routes we took or the miles we covered. It only mattered how long from point A to B.
Obviously checking right after lunch wouldn’t give you a realistic look at an average commute happening in the morning or evening hours. I suggested she check as she normally leaves work or home and compare what Waze gives her for my address with what Waze gives her for her commute. That will give her a more realistic view of what her commute might look like on an on-going basis. The difference between her current commute and a perspective commute is a “commuting cost.” Do the benefits outweigh the costs? Only you can decide that.
Digitized information is increasingly before us. The next step is driving services from these data. Already Waze is beginning to share information with cities to improve the accuracy of the platform and in turn improve the intelligence of city planners, officials, and residences.
Imagine a partnership between Waze and someone like Redfin or Zillow. Combined you might be able to compare average commutes on any given day or across different weeks. Houses could have "commuting cost" indexes. Not generic estimates, but precise estimates for a specific work address. Commute time information already existed; it just wasn’t being systematically aggregated. It wasn’t digitally available. As information like this becomes digitally, we will start making data dominated decisions.