The Rise of Super-Commuters: Why I Fly to Work

Marisa Torrieri

planeFor Mary Beth Williams, home is where the heart is—and that’s Chicago.

Thing is, Williams only has a handful of days each month to kick back at her two-bedroom condo in the Windy City.

The rest of the time she shares a small rental apartment with a roommate in Boston where she works as a health care executive. But Williams isn’t complaining. She’s used to it. Before she started this gig in 2010, she was flying back and forth for a similar job in Philadelphia.

Williams stumbled into her jet-setting lifestyle of shuttling back and forth between time zones. One day, in 2005, she says, she got a call from a recruiter in Philadelphia asking if she would go fill in for six months as an interim director for a program at a children’s hospital—and they agreed to fly her home every week. The gig was exactly what Williams was looking for at that point in her career, so she jumped at the opportunity. Then, six months turned into … four years, with Williams flying back to Chicago every weekend.

Why fly to work, you might wonder? Actually, Williams is among a group of people who have been dubbed “super-commuters” by researchers at New York University’s Rudin Center for Transportation.

For super-commuters, the distance to and from work is 180 miles or more, which, for some, can mean hopping a plane. (Others may choose to take a train.) This subgroup of professionals accounts for about 3-10% of the working population—and their number is only expected to rise.

Why Workers Are Traveling Farther

According to the NYU report, super-commuting is becoming more popular across the country. A few of the well-traveled routes becoming even more common? Boston to Manhattan, Dallas-Ft. Worth to Houston, Austin and San Antonio to Houston, and Northern California to Los Angeles.

  • Laura

    I live in NYC but commute to Dallas every week for work; I’ve been doing that same commute for about 2 years (and previously commuted to Charlottesville, VA, and Boston, MA). A lot of people don’t really understand the associated challenges but I’d agree with the end of this article (about your time being incredibly structured). Any friends that can’t make plans in advance but instead want to be spontaneous are people I don’t keep up with anymore.

  • Megan Bearce, LMFT

    The reporter left out of her story that I have written a book on the subject title Super Commuter Couples: Staying Together When a Job Keeps You Apart (Equanimity Press) with a fall release scheduled. As a licensed marriage and family therapist who specializes in supporting super commuter couples, I wrote it to be a resource for this ever more common type of family. It combines interviews with couples in the US and Internationally along with professional and personal (my husband super commutes) tips and advice for coping with a super commuter relationship as well as what to consider if you are contemplating entering into one.-Megan Bearce, LMFT

  • Suzanne Levison

    I placed a gentleman some years ago, who, due to circumstances, could not move immediately and the commute from South LA/Orange County area to North of LA was too time consuming. My client company agreed to shuttle him via helicopter for 3 months until he could relocate.

  • Suzanne Levison

    As an executive search consultant, we have encountered numerous situations for our clients to hire those whose lives involve a commute. The right person, the right job, is the most important for search.

  • Antonio Quinones

    I’m a consultant and travel weekly all over the place. I can’t find a girlfriend willing to accept that :-(

    • Radar

      try being a flight attendant. *sigh*