Oh, brother. In a post titled “Why I’m moving to the place I called “America’s worst place to live,” on the Washington Post WonkBlog, Christopher Ingraham writes about leaving the hellish Beltway area for a quiet, commute-less life in rural Minnesota. Good for him! Kind of.
Ingraham’s piece focuses heavily on his current 90-minute commute to the office. It leaves him without much time to spend with his kids every evening, and with almost no time to see friends or go out to restaurants or cultural institutions. Promoting the post on Twitter, he wrote “Why I’m leaving DC,” next to a chart comparing different commute times. The “90 minutes” entry was circled in red, with “ME” written next to it.
Obviously, there is nothing wrong with moving to Minnesota. Red Lake County, where Ingraham intends to go, sounds just fine. Ingraham first encountered it after writing that it had ranked worst in America on a list about “natural amenities”—things like sunlight and good weather—but was later charmed by the friendly local populace and spacious plots of land.
The problem here is that Ingraham doesn’t actually live in D.C. He lives in the suburbs. He lives in Baltimore County, to be precise, as he writes about halfway through the piece. Baltimore County isn’t even really a suburb of D.C. It’s a suburb of Baltimore, as its name implies, and most of it is situated on the north side of the city—the opposite side from the district. Even the very closest points in the county to D.C. are something like 30 miles from it, and the furthest reaches are close to 80 miles. A 30-mile commute might be shorter than 90 minutes somewhere outside the beltway, but it’s still going to be pretty long no matter where you are. A 90-minute drive isn’t a problem of living in cities; it’s a problem of living outside of them.
I don’t mean to begrudge Ingraham’s decision to move, I swear. There are few better reasons to change your lifestyle than to spend more time with the people you love, so more power to him. But he shouldn’t frame his choice as a noble rejection of the hustle and bustle of living in a metropolis.
Living in cities is good! More people should live in cities. They have environmentally (and economically and democratically) friendly public transportation; they have environmentally (and economically and democratically) friendly high population densities; they have jobs that pay well; they have cozy little cafes where they make you iced Americanos when they’re all out of regular iced coffee. Plus, when you live in a city, your job might be right around the corner. You might even be able to walk there. Or, if you’re like me, you might still commute an hour each way, but hey. You almost definitely will not spend 15 hours or more in the car each week, as Ingraham writes that he does.
If you find that you do, I suggest moving to a different city. New York is great.