I’ve had good commutes for most of my life. I’ve also shaped my life in ways to reduce the time I spend going from home to work, and make such journeys are enjoyable. I write this as the Hudson Valley goes through a new wave of mass migration from New York City and its environs. People are shifting abodes as they did after 9/11. Many have lost a taste for city living. The balance between convenience and stress has changed. Migration patterns in the metropolises have switched from centripetal to centrifugal.
Work patterns have changed. Huge numbers of jobs have been rendered virtual, shifted commutes from hours and minutes to the seconds it takes to get from one’s kitchen to whatever you’re calling an office.
According to realtor Dina Palin of Houlihan Lawrence, Inc., the hottest markets she’s dealing with are within close driving distance of Metro North and Amtrak. She’s heard the same is true for the Trailways routes on the western shores of the Hudson. “People want the option to still be able to go into the city one or two days a week, if necessary,” she said. “People want to do this easily.”
Many clients who moved to the area for its views, its quality of life, and in one case to be close to a specific bar/cafe/bookshop couldn’t find work that paid well enough to support their lifestyles. But they’re still coming, and in numbers larger than ever,
“I get people who spend time here renting, or visiting friends or family, and decide they want their own place,” Palin added. “You go out now in Hudson, Woodstock, Rhinebeck or New Paltz and it’s hard to see anyone local. It’s like a sense of community’s been suspended. Everyone’s worrying it’ll all become cliquish again.”
In the past, attempts to shift the way employers manage employees has tended to snap back to older patterns involving standard offices. But it also depends on economic factors. Will high-stress industries be able to function as well with more relaxed schedules not fueled by urban benefits and liabilities? Will those buying here now be able to (or even want to) maintain high-pressure lives once they’ve resettled in Phoenicia, Rosendale, Rhinebeck or Uptown Kingston?
In a spur-of-the-moment fashion, with no real idea why I wanted out of Brooklyn. I maintained work from whence I came until I decided to embrace a new life. My first commute was from Phoenicia to Margaretville … really sweet except when it snowed a lot. I found ways to go quasi-virtual., creating a weekly commute that accommodated my work. I got to know the area well while maintaining a cheap, honorably rural lifestyle at the center of a circle with a 50-mile (or hour’s drive) radius.
It wasn’t easy. Eventually I simplified, as much because of the house I had bought as any employment dreams, with a 20-minute commute across the Greene County Mountaintop. Then I moved with marriage, had a kid, and started working from home all but a day or two each week.
What did I learn through all this? As much as it’s nice to shorten the length one drives for employment, it’s also nice to be fully involved in whatever community one’s investing in. To be seen on its streets. To limit one’s chances of accidents to and fro, especially during deer season. And to daydream as one passed through the beauty of the region.
There are limits to how far one can commute. Friends who came up every weekend from the city forever and eventually found ways to let that other urban life go.
I moved back to the city for a while, and then to Albany. Eventually I ran out of steam and found local work to augment what I could do virtually, which diminished over time. Suddenly my expenses ebbed and I was able to save more even though I was making less. To top it all off, the real-estate market ticked up, giving me a nest egg of sorts.
I stayed. And now my only commutes are on foot.