Forum to explore consequences of long commutes

Daniel
Daniel MacEachern
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Traffic builds at one of the city’s major intersections as the afternoon rush hour approaches. — Photo by Gary Hebbard/The Telegram

What are the consequences of long-distance commutes? A new Memorial University project tackles the social and economic results of Newfoundland and Labrador workers who have to travel long distances — ranging from long drives to the city, flights to offshore oil platforms or across the country to Fort McMurray, Alta.

Memorial professor Barb Neis, project director for “On the Move: The Consequences of Long-Distance Commuting,” said the project was born of research she’d been doing in fishing communities in rural Newfoundland.

“We were interested in coming up with some strategies to help fishing communities become more resilient in the future,” she said. “We were focusing on the fishery, but it became increasingly obvious that a lot of the people — including some who were still active in the fishery — were actually away from the communities for a good portion of the time. They were involved in migrant work. They might be fishing for a short period of time and then they’d be gone for long periods of time. It became obvious to me that if we were really going to be looking at these communities, this was something we needed to understand more.”

Researchers convened

Neis began monitoring some of the other larger issues in the province in other sectors — skilled-labour shortages, for example — and decided to convene researchers from across Canada, and over the ensuing couple of years developed a proposal to look at extended commuting of various kinds.

“What is unique about the research is there’s research on different kinds of employment-related mobility. So you have some research on what’s called long-distance commuting — say, into work camps or in the offshore oil and gas rigs. There’s some research on temporary foreign workers in Canada.”

“There’s some research — primarily urban — on extended commuting. Nobody had really pulled this together to look at what we’re calling the spectrum of mobility — everything from commuting for two hours a day to being away from home sometimes for several weeks or several months of the year, or in the case of temporary foreign workers, sometimes for a couple of years at a time.”

A free public forum Tuesday will explore the consequences of long-distance commuting, with a panel of university professors from across the country.

“This is really the public launch of seven years of research,” said Neis. “The research that we’re talking about on the spectrum of mobility in the Canadian context is just starting. What we’re doing with this panel is, because we’re having a team meeting in St. John’s, we’re bringing into the city people who have expertise in a range of areas that we think are relevant to Newfoundland and Labrador, based on research they’ve done before.”

The forum starts Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. at Innovation Hall in the Bruneau Centre on Memorial’s campus, with free parking in Lot 15B. The forum will also be webcast live at www.mun.ca/harriscentre

dmaceachern@thetelegram.com

Twitter: TelegramDaniel

Organizations: Bruneau Centre

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, Fort McMurray, Canada

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  • saelcove
    December 03, 2012 - 10:25

    Long distance commutes have been studied to death by every major city in the world just give them a call

  • Duffy
    December 02, 2012 - 09:22

    The commute to Long Harbor would be a great place to start a study. The workers get a little over 60 cents a K. Sooo if you commute 100 K's round trip that is about $60.00 a day and then car pool with 4 others and you get an extra $300 a week on top of the $40.00 an hour. Sleep in the car or talk and have a cup of coffee on the ride. Now that is STRESS!