They seem superhuman. We watch them with a combination of awe and horror, we imagine them sitting on the train, ascetically zen, laser-focused on the good life, and most of all, enduring. They are the mega commuters of the Hudson Valley, also known as extreme or super commuters, those who travel “more than 50 miles and 90 minutes or more to get to work.” To clarify, that’s 90 minutes- one way, every day- a minimum of three hours spent commuting.
A spate of socio-economic conditions, coupled with some of New York’s more enduring qualities (i.e. the endless concrete, tenor-pitched pace of life, and upstairs neighbors who seem convinced that the best time to practice their pogo-ing skills is at 3:30 AM), have caused the numbers of mega commuters to rise precipitously over the last two decades. Using census data, the website Apartment List found that 6.7% of all New York jobs took over 90 minutes to get to. Long seen as untenable, the fact is now undeniable- mega commuting is here to stay. Nationally, the rate is at a high as well- over 2.8 percent of all commuters- but only Stockton, California has a higher rate than New York. Mega commuters are more likely to rely on public transit and are also more likely to be non-white than other commuters.
While there isn't any data yet specifically for Hudson Valley mega commuters, it is appropriate to believe that national conditions- increased economic strain, a lack of high paying jobs, and aging transportation infrastructure- all contribute here as well. Where the valley is unique, though, are the reasons people make the hike every day. In addition to the economic ills, good schools, and backyards that are widely touted, people report enduring the lengthy commute every day because they love the Hudson Valley itself. Bypassing entirely the suburban sprawl has its benefits.
Traditionally thought of as a world apart from New York, mega commuter Greg calls Poughkeepsie “a terrific place to live.” Having grown up there but moved away for school and work (during which time he met his wife, who, compared to her native Ohio, would pick the Hudson Valley “100% of the time”), he’s glad to call the southside historic district home. Likewise, Andrea from Brewster reports that having “access to incredible scenery and nature all the time for running, hiking, and biking” is a big part of the appeal to her- she even recently relinquished a second space in Brooklyn to spend more time upstate.
The Stoic philosopher Epictetus once said that it was important to “make the best use of what is in your power, and take the rest as it happens,” and your grandmother probably has a pillow that says “grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference,” (which is actually a quote by the prominent 20th century theologian and socialist Reinhold Neibuhr).