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The long road home: super commuters on the rise

By Jane Derenowski

NBC News

Every day, Rodney Beseda travels about 95 miles each way from Fayetteville, Texas, to his job as a facilities manager at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.  If he leaves home at 4:15 a.m., he’ll arrive at  6:00  a.m., right on time. And then when the day ends he’ll make the nearly 2 hour drive once more.

“With the job market now, if you are in a stable job, I definitely wouldn’t want to try and change jobs right now," he said.

Beseda, 37, who has managed to keep this schedule for 10 years, is one of a growing number of “super commuters”-- people who travel about 100 miles each way to work.

He grew up in Fayetteville, Texas, halfway between Austin and Houston, then moved to Houston to be closer to his job.  But after just a year and a half in the big city, he moved back to the much smaller Fayetteville community (population: 258) to start and raise a family. On the weekends, Beseda, his wife, and their four kids go fishing in a pond near their home and on Sundays, the whole family –- cousins, aunts and uncles who also live in town -- have a big dinner together.   It’s a family tradition, Beseda said, and that means more to him than living closer to his place of employment.

“For me, being out there in the country, what I know and what I love, that is where I want to be,” he said.

 Read a first-person account from a super commuter.

It’s easy to see why he and millions of others live in smaller, less-expensive, close-knit communities with family close by rather than moving closer to their jobs in big cities.  And according to a recent analysis by Mitchell Moss, a professor at New York University’s Rudin Center for Transportation, the number of super commuters is growing. In some cities, like Houston and Dallas, the number of super commuters has tripled since 2002.   

The eight fastest-growing metropolitan areas for super commuters are: New York City, Philadelphia, Dallas, Houston, Seattle, Los Angeles, Phoenix, and Chicago.

“Today, Americans are so concerned about the fact that jobs are uncertain, you don’t have a lifetime employment, you’re putting your family first and therefore they’re going to commute much greater distances to work to keep their families in one place,” Moss told NBC News. “No one wants to uproot their family.  And with so many households, more than half of the households in America having two earners, it’s very hard for both people to get a job in the same city.  As a result we are finding out that people are traveling great distances.”

Southwest Airlines hosts two dozen daily commuter flights between Houston and Dallas -- two of the fastest-growing super commuter hotspots.  And it isn’t unusual for passengers to take a plane to and from work five days a week.  Technology, too, has enabled many long-distance workers to telecommute several days a week, making the really big commutes once or twice a week much more bearable.

Many companies are now also providing free shuttle buses to help attract and keep qualified workers who live far away from the workplace.  Rackspace Hosting, an Internet business solutions company, drives many of its employees from Austin to San Antonio every day on a bus equipped with WiFi access, helping make the morning commute a lot more productive (and fun) for its workers.  

We’d like to hear more about your commute … how you pass the time, save on gas and car repairs, or simply chill out on the long way home. Share your thoughts below.