Author Archive


Work and Personal Life Balance

The past few weeks I have been struggling with work and personal balance and realize that although I am affected by this, others close to me struggle with it as well. Common factors that some of us share is not taking time out for ourselves, not finding ways to relax, and taking on additional responsibilities within the household.

The main reason I struggle to find balance is that I am guilty for not prioritizing my time wisely. I realized that I needed to find ways to balance my work and personal life so I wouldn’t feel overwhelmed. In an article I read online, one of the useful tips was creating a schedule. I have never attempted to have my routine on a schedule, but I think that it is worth giving it a try.

Here are some other helpful tips on a better work-life balance.

  • Build downtime into your schedule. It is important to take time out of your schedule to make time for your friends and family and be able to re-energize.
  • Drop activities that sap your time or energy. Don’t spend time on places, things, or people that do not add value. Sometimes it is easy to get sidetracked and then next thing you know time was wasted.
  • Rethink your errands. Find opportunities to limit yourself from doing unnecessary tasks.
  • Get moving. Don’t sit around and wait for things to be done.
  • Remember that a little relaxation goes a long way. Look into a little summer getaway or something as simple as alone time.

These are some great tips to try if you are someone like myself who struggles with finding balance with everyday responsibilities. I know that there have been plenty of moments where I have wasted time on unnecessary things. I am excited to implement these tips into my everyday life and hopefully they can help someone else achieve balance.

Donica McNeill-Taylor, an Administrative Assistant who enjoys supporting a team of inspiring urban planners. I also enjoy socializing and living life to the fullest with friends and love ones.

How’s your Mental Health Awareness Month going so far?

Time flies when you’re having fun!  Suddenly it’s almost the end of May. We all know that May is mental health awareness month, what have you done to take care of your mental health?

There can be many elements of daily stresses: traffic congestion, finances, workplace pressure, or other personal challenges. With everything added up, it can wear on our mental health little by little each day.  During rush hour, the traffic in the DMV area can be really horrible and especially if there is an accident on the roads, it can take up to twice the amount of the regular commute time. Even when taking the Metro, there could be many reasons that cause a train delay. The feeling of anxiety is stressful among commuters whom are late for a meeting or something urgent but are stuck in the delayed train. There’s a study that found that commuting also has significant psychological and social costs. It can be a major cause of stress, due to its unpredictability and a sense of loss of control. Commuters can experience boredom, social isolation, anger, and frustration from problems like traffic or delays.

Here are some tips I have that helped me to reduce stress during commute:

  1. Find some distraction.

i.e., listening to music or podcast might help you to get in your own zone and minimize the discomfort from the commute.  There’s nothing you can do while you are in traffic, using your phone checking email can be very distracted when driving. I found time flies when you are doing something that enjoyable. Also, I saw people on the train doing different things to kill time. Some of them reading newspaper or book, some of them watching a TV show.

  1. Try to leave earlier.

It could be challenging sometimes, but usually, you will feel less stressed if reserve more time for your commute. Therefore, you don’t risk running late to a meeting. However, traffic can be very unpredictable, fighting with the unpredictable nature of commuting wastes a lot of mental energy and focus. Acknowledge you are lacking the control in this situation and try to accept the reality.

  1. Teleworking

This will depend on the company’s and your schedule flexibility. Sometimes I need to get to several meeting in a day, each of them might in a different direction. In between those meetings, going back to the office would waste a lot of time especially when the office might in another direction. I would find a coffee shop near the next meeting location and work from there.

If you are interested in smart commute solutions, please see the blog by James Davenport – How’s the Commute. If you have some effective way to relieve the stress in commuting, welcome to share with us.

Above is just a part of our life. Overall, we need to build up strong mental health to be able to tackle any difficulties. May 2019 is coming to an end, but our way to being mentally strong will not end here. Create an opportunity to share your stressful moment with people you trust and listen to their stories, you might find you are not alone at the same time, you can encourage each other with some life hacks or positive thoughts.

Mei Fang, who is an urban planner with a strong passion for urban and landscape design, she also enjoys looking for the variety of culture inside of the city.



What does it cost to drive?

In a previous blog I asked, “what will it take for you to change your commute?”. In reading that question, you may have responded “NOTHING.” Nothing will prompt you to change your ways. That is your “driving solo in a car” ways.

I admit, being able to get in your car and drive anywhere you want to go, whenever you want to go,  is quite an advantage and difficult to argue against. You are not tied to anyone else’s schedule. You don’t have to wait for anyone. If you are running late, who cares. No one is waiting for you. If you feel sick, you can leave whenever you want. This is especially true for your commute to work. How can one top the convenience of driving alone? Why would I want to participate in a shared car or shared van arrangement?

Well, you should know that the convenience does come at a cost. The cost may not be so obvious at first, but you are paying for that convenience. How much?


smart-car-1Well in 2017, Americans paid, on average, $3,037 to cover the indirect/hidden costs of driving which included sitting in traffic and searching for parking. Also in that year, the average total cost of driving was $10,288. This is a staggering figure.  Are you beginning to see how driving alone to work may not be as advantageous as you once thought?

How do I know this? I came across an article in the March/April edition of  “@Livemore” a publication of the Dulles Area Transportation Association (DATA). The research was drawn from the  first ever published report on the “Cost of Driving” by INRIX, an analytics company that researches the connection between technology and transportation.

Sometimes I don’t like to drive, especially to areas that are dense and built-up. The reason for this is the hassle of finding available parking. I don’t know about you, but I hate driving around and around in the search for parking, and often over paying on a street meter or paying the inflated cost in a parking garage. According to the INRIX research, drivers spend on average $3,000 per year on parking. The type of costs that are integrated into this estimate include:

  • Waste of time,
  • Carbon emissions,
  • Parking fines,

This may be the reason many drivers are excited about the idea of having fully autonomous vehicles in the future. The car will take you to your destination, then disappear. When you are ready to leave, you can snap your fingers and voila, there is your car. Not going to happen folks, at least not in the near future.  Parking will continue to be a drawback to driving for a long time.

Your next argument could be, I work in the suburbs. I have unlimited parking in the suburban office park where I work. True enough, but you must understand there are other costs to car ownership and driving everywhere you go. These include:

  • Purchasing or leasing a vehicle, including finance costs
  • Depreciation of a vehicle
  • Maintenance and service (I can vouch for that having paid over $2,000 in recent car repair)
  • Insurance
  • Fuel
  • Tolls
  • Taxes
  • Lost productive time sitting in traffic
  • (fill in the blank)_____________

And remember, with the rising cost of property and real estate, some companies, or their property managers/owners, may not find it as lucrative to continue setting aside valuable space just for parking. Don’t be surprised if your employer starts considering charging for parking, especially as congestion in suburban areas becomes more problematic to commuters. An increase in traffic congestion may prompt employers to look for ways to encourage shared driving in order to help reduce congestion and better assure their employees arrive to work on time.


Recent trends show employees are increasingly leaving their job due to commuting challenges, and that employees are beginning to look to their employers to help them address their commuting challenges. As a result, a number of companies are beginning to cover employee commuting costs if they use alternative modes of commuting (carpooling, vanpooling, transit, biking)  while increasingly charging solo drivers for their “parking privileges.” Don’t say I didn’t warn you if that happens to you at your company.

So what can you do? No, I am not suggesting you sell your car, though kudos to you if you do. It’s basic economics, the less you drive, the less wear and tear on your car. Consider a carpool or vanpool if your schedule allows it. Look to telework, and potential transit opportunities. The bus may not be so inconvenient. If you do consider these options and cut back on your driving alone to work, your wallet will thank you.

James Davenport is a TDM Employer Outreach Specialist, on contract with the Virginia Department of Transportation. Before that, James worked for Prince William County/Department of Transportation as a Regional Planner. In that capacity, he represented the county in regional forums and worked with planners and staff from other localities and transit agencies to help the region plan for its transportation future. For many years, James worked with the National Association of Counties as a project manager providing education and outreach to county officials, staff and key stakeholder groups on planning issues such as transportation, water quality, collaborative land use and economic development.



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