How to Pick a Neighborhood with Your Family’s Transportation Needs in Mind

Posted on by Matt Erickson. This entry was posted in Life Events and Changes. Bookmark the permalink.

A great commute can make a world of difference – but, of course, you have more than one person’s transportation needs to consider.

Perhaps when you’re thinking about an ideal living place, you have to consider your spouse’s workplace location and your children’s daycare or school(s). You need a plan for how to get each member of your family to his or her workplace or classroom, and how to get each of you back home in time for dinner.

That takes some doing, but it doesn’t mean you can’t find a place that will allow for an affordable, efficient, and reliable commute for each member of your family. Here are some questions to think about.

How can you mix and match transportation modes to make things work?

Can you find a location where you can walk your child to school, then take a bus to campus from there? Can your spouse take a bus to work downtown while you bike to the UW?

Recently, one UW staff member, Tam Kutzmark, found she was able to move to a new home and cut commute time for both her and her husband. Not only is their new apartment in Fremont just a block from a stop for a Route 44 bus that takes Kutzmark straight to the UW, but it’s also a two-minute walk from her son’s elementary school.

“I wanted to make the move because I knew I personally could save an hour each day commuting,” says Kutzmark, who works for UW Transportation Services. “But after moving, we realized that my husband is also saving an hour because he now has a two-minute walk to pick up our son, instead of a 20- to 30-minute drive each way. And our son can sleep in an extra 30 minutes because we don’t have a half-hour drive to school in the morning.”

One tool you can use to juggle such possibilities is the apartment search provided by Seattle-based Walk Score. Type in all the destinations your family needs to get to in the morning (workplaces, daycares, schools), select what types of transportation you’d like to use and how long you’d like it to take, and you’ll get a map of locations that could work for you. If you’d like to be able to walk to a grocery store, a park or a school, you can indicate that, as well.

Could you use your commute as an opportunity to spend time with your loved ones?

Many of us want a quick commute, of course, but here’s something else to consider: A commute spent alongside your child or your spouse can be a great way to start and end the workday.

“It’s time when our attention can be totally focused on each other,” says UW staff member Celeste Gilman, who takes her daughter to school on transit every day. She loves being able to use light rail and the bus to get to school because it sets aside time for them to spend together, without the need to keep eyes on the road or worry about traffic.

How will your commute affect your family’s life?

When you’re looking for a home with your family in mind, you naturally think about finding a place where you’ll be happy to spend time together. But consider, as well, that your housing location could affect how much time you can spend together. And having more time at home could affect your life in a lot of ways.

For Kutzmark, some of the benefits of her family’s new commute didn’t become clear until after she’d moved.

“Even though I was concerned about the higher rent,” Kutzmark says of her new home, “I quickly realized that with the time we’re saving on our commute, we cook more and eat less takeout, saving money and eating healthier every month.”

The move also brought Kutzmark’s family to a more walkable neighborhood, which pays dividends even after everyone’s back home from work and school. “My son can scooter and bicycle on sidewalks, we can hear actual birds singing, and we can more easily get to know our neighbors because we’re walking by instead of driving by,” she says. “It’s just an improvement to our quality of life.”

If you’re juggling your family’s needs while hunting for a home, Kutzmark recommends taking some time to really think about what your family’s day-to-day life will be like in a potential new neighborhood. Your location could affect more than you imagine.

See UW Transportation’s complete housing guide here.

matt_ericksonMatt Erickson writes things, takes pictures, and occasionally futzes around with Adobe Illustrator for UW Transportation Services. His favorite things include his wife, Sarah; his cat, Salvador; good beer; and the Kansas City Royals.