By David Schaper, October 29, 2013
Kathy LeVeque reads her tablet on her reverse commute from her city home to her job in north suburban Deerfield.
It is still as dark as night as Jim Rix steps out of his red brick Chicago bungalow and gets into his car, parked on the street. It's 6 a.m., and the 53-year-old engineer is getting an early start on his 35-mile commute out to Argonne National Laboratory in Chicago's southwest suburbs.
"Depending upon weather and time of day, it can take 45 minutes to two hours to get to and from work," Rix says.
Rix is one of many on the roads driving a reverse commute from the city to the suburbs. Over the past couple of decades, suburban job growth has exploded, but in recent years, there's also been a renaissance in urban living, especially among young professionals. The result: In some cities, traffic on the reverse commute is as congested as or worse than traffic going into the city.
As Rix accelerates onto the expressway, traffic is already heavy, though moving — a good sign — but it's only because he leaves home so early that he's able to beat the worst of morning traffic.
"Yesterday, for instance, I didn't leave until 7 o'clock; it took over 90 minutes to get to work and there wasn't anything particular going on."
Crashes or bad weather can make the trip take much longer.
"It's just exhausting. There's nothing to be done with it, and the stress and so forth is pretty hard to take," he says.
'I'm A City Person'
So to avoid the worst of the traffic, Rix is one of a growing number of commuters working a flexible schedule: He gets to work early — around 7 a.m. Some days he heads home by 3 p.m.; other days, he stays at work until after 7 p.m., to miss the peak rush hours.
Why not just move closer to his job? Jim's wife, Susan, has a long commute to a northern suburb in the opposite direction of Jim's.