You’ll never believe how much time you spend commuting over a lifetime

Motorists travel on Interstate 5 on Friday, Aug. 31, in Bellingham.
Motorists travel on Interstate 5 on Friday, Aug. 31, in Bellingham. evan.abell@bellinghamherald.com

You’re stuck in Bellingham traffic and longing for the comfort of home — maybe not the best time to hear that you’ll spend almost a year of your life commuting to and from your job.

One year.

“That’s fairly accurate for me,” said Chris Weigel of Bellingham. “Morning from Whatcom Falls to Grandview in Ferndale (in) about 20 minutes and 30 minutes back at 4:30ish.”

Weigel’s commute is pretty average for Bellingham, statistically speaking, according to a new report at EducatedDriver.org, which offers online driver education and driving-related data.

Educated Driver used U.S. Census data to examine commute times in 1,000 cities across the nation and created an interactive chart that shows Bellingham, where residents spend an average 41.6 minutes daily getting to and from work.

Josh Pankanin, who lives in the Birchwood neighborhood, drives about a half-hour daily for work.

“Thirteen minutes in the morning, 16 in the evening. I’m lucky,” he said. “I work near Kelly and Hannegan, so the stretch of Meridian that I take is stop-and-go most evenings.”

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Educated Driver’s interactive chart shows Bellingham residents have one of the easiest commutes in Washington state. Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald EducatedDriver.org

Mean travel time to work for Bellingham commuters was 17.4 minutes in 2010, and it was 17.9 minutes in 2016, according to the Census Bureau’s annual American Community Survey, which uses five-year averages and computes travel time to work but not the return trip.

Most Bellingham workers, 69.8 percent, reported a total morning commute of 19 minutes or less.

That’s below the average Washington resident’s commute of 26.1 minutes, according to VisualCapitalist.com.

Genevieve Carrillo, who lives in the Lettered Streets and works downtown, is among the 21.8 percent of Bellingham residents who spend less than 10 minutes getting to work.

“I drive about 90 percent of the time these days,” she said. “I recently got a car but before I had one, I would walk or bus every day.”

Sherri Daymon of Silver Beach rides the bus daily to her job downtown, thanks to a discounted pass she receives from her employer.

Daymon’s commute is about 15 minutes each way and she uses the time to read, play games or chat with some of the other regular passengers.

For its report, Educated Driver figured a full-time schedule of 250 working days a year, and a 45-year working career.

Bellingham drivers logged 325 days for an average lifetime commute, compared to a San Francisco resident’s average 502 days over a lifetime or a suburban New Yorker’s average 580 days.

Not all Whatcom County residents share the relatively easy commute of those in the City of Subdued Excitement.

Eliza Keller of Sumas, who works in Lynden, said she drives 23 minutes to her mom’s house to drop off her son and then another 12 minutes to work, which adds up to more than 40 minutes each way.

Same for Emily Neuhauser of Birch Bay, who drives about an hour daily to and from her job in Lynden.

“Winters are the hardest because of the snow,” she said.

But few people have it as hard as the Brown family of Ferndale.

“My husband drives around 65 to 110 miles one way each day,” she said, adding that he is a union sheet metal worker who travels to different job sites. “If you want to afford Whatcom County, you gotta travel.”

Timothy Demerjian of Sumas qualifies for one of the worst commutes — all the way to downtown Seattle.

“Two hours, each way, on a good day — like a Sunday morning, at 4 a.m.” he said. “On a bad day (it’s) more like 3.25 to 3.75 hours. Usually, I just stay down there and sleep in my van.”

Bellingham Police logged 1,350 accidents from January 2016 to June 2017. Here are the intersections that saw the highest number of accidents.

Robert Mittendorf: 360-756-2805, @BhamMitty
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