Longer Commutes, Shorter Lives


A great American investment slump.

The next time you take a trip within the U.S., I encourage you to try a thought experiment: Imagine how long the same trip might have taken a half-century ago. Chances are, it would have taken less time than it does today.

The scheduled flight time between Los Angeles and New York, for example, has become about 30 minutes longer. Aviation technology has not advanced in ways that speed the trip, and the skies have become so crowded that pilots reroute planes to avoid traffic. Nearly every other part of the trip also lasts longer than it would have a few decades ago, thanks to traffic on the roads and airport security. All told, a cross-country trip could take a few more hours today than it would have in the 1970s.

Shorter trips also take more time. Auto traffic in almost every metro area has worsened, and the country has done little to improve its rail network. In 1969, Metroliner trains made two-and-a-half-hour, nonstop trips between Washington and New York. Today, there are no nonstop trains on that route, and the fastest trip, on Acela trains, takes about 20 minutes longer than the Metroliner once did.

The speed at which people can get from one place to another is one of the most basic measures of a society’s sophistication. It affects economic productivity and human happiness; academic research has found that commuting makes people more unhappy than almost any other daily activity. Yet in one area of U.S. travel after another, progress has largely stopped over the past half-century.

This lack of recent progress is not a result of any physical or technological limits, either. In other parts of the world, travel has continued to accelerate. Shanghai’s airport is almost 20 miles from its city center, and the trip on a high-speed train takes less than 10 minutes. La Guardia Airport and Times Square are significantly closer together — yet good luck making the trip in less than 30 minutes.

Why is it more difficult to get around the U.S.? Above all, it’s because our society has stopped investing in the future as we once did.

For decades, government investment in highways, mass transit, scientific research, education and other future-oriented programs has grown more slowly than it once did — and has often failed to keep pace with economic growth. And the private sector tends to underinvest in these same areas because any individual company has a hard time making a profit from early-stage investments.

Share of G.D.P. Spent on Federal Research and Development

A chart shows the share of the country’s G.D.P. is spent on federal research and development. The share spent on this category peaked in the mid-1960s, reaching almost 2 percent. In 2022, it was less than one percent.

1.5% of G.D.P.









1.5% of G.D.P.









Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis

By The New York Times

This shortfall of investment affects far more than travel. It affects economic growth, public health and both racial and gender inequities. The long American investment slump is one of the causes of our modern malaise, with rising income inequality, declining life expectancy, and deep frustration about the economy even when it’s growing.

Interstate 90 in 1972.Associated Press

I explain the connection in a new Times Magazine article that goes into much more detail about the investment slump. The article also explains why there are some signs — albeit early ones — that the U.S. is rethinking its recent approach.

  • Rishi Sunak, Britain’s prime minister, is in Israel to express support and push for a humanitarian aid route in Gaza. He is expected to visit other nations in the region.

  • Xi Jinping, China’s leader, called for a cease-fire and said Beijing still supported the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.

President Biden on Air Force One.Kenny Holston/The New York Times
  • President Biden departed Israel after meeting with victims of the Hamas attacks, including a grandmother held at gunpoint who offered food to her captors.

  • He sympathized with Israelis’ pain, The Times’s Peter Baker wrote, but also offered a gentle warning that they not be consumed by rage.

  • “After 9/11, we were enraged in the United States,” Biden said. “While we sought justice and got justice, we also made mistakes.”

  • Biden said he had secured a commitment from Israel to allow some humanitarian aid into Gaza through Egypt. He also announced $100 million in U.S. aid for Palestinian civilians.

  • The details of the Gaza hospital blast — including the cause and death toll — are still unknown. See images of the aftermath.

  • U.S. intelligence officials say their early analysis points to an armed Palestinian group, but cautioned that they were still gathering evidence.

  • Protests continued over the explosion, and the police in Berlin arrested 174 people overnight.

  • See videos of the demonstrations in The Wall Street Journal.

Tracking votes. Anna Rose Layden for The New York Times
  • Representative Jim Jordan again fell short of becoming House speaker, losing even more Republicans on a second vote.

  • These graphics from The Washington Post show who voted against him.

  • Some members fear the infighting will hurt their party in 2024.

  • Lawmakers in both parties are considering giving the interim speaker, Representative Patrick McHenry, the power to run the House until a speaker is chosen.

  • A Trump lawyer charged in the Georgia election case argues that he was just offering legal advice. His emails may undercut that defense.

  • The first deportation flight to Venezuela in years arrived in Caracas after the U.S. lifted a suspension on returning migrants home.

  • The Ukrainian economy is expected to grow this year, driven by domestic spending and foreign aid.

  • Ukraine’s use of American-made missiles could undermine Russian operations, analysts say. Vladimir Putin has downplayed the weapons’ impact.

  • China is trying to steal technology from Silicon Valley, the U.S. and other Western countries’ intelligence agencies warned.

  • Liberia’s closest election in two decades is heading to a runoff after neither the president nor his main opponent secured a majority.

  • The front-runner in Argentina’s presidential election owns five genetic copies of his former dog. Many voters are fascinated by them.

  • A woman in New York is in critical condition after a man pushed her into a subway train in what the police called a random attack.

  • A man confessed to killing Natalee Holloway, an American teenager, in Aruba after she rejected his advances.

  • California has banned four common food additives that have been linked cancer and reproductive issues. The law will go into effect in 2027.

  • Researchers say guardrails meant to prevent chatbots from generating harmful material aren’t as strong as some companies say.

McHenry, the temporary speaker, has an opportunity to consolidate power and get the House back to business, Brendan Buck argues.

Here are columns by Charles Blow on young Americans’ sympathy for Palestinians, Ross Douthat on Israel and the lessons of 9/11 and Gail Collins on Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

A Barnes & Noble in Manhattan.Maansi Srivastava/The New York Times

Making a comeback: Barnes & Noble is redesigning its stores to attract more customers.

Tall, hairy tale: A couple claims to have spotted Bigfoot in Colorado. See the photo and judge for yourself.

Social Qs: “Should we keep paying for our ungrateful son to join us on family vacations?”

Snooze you … win? A new study suggests smashing that alarm button may not be all that bad.

Lives Lived: Burt Young was best known for playing Paulie in the “Rocky” movies. But his bulldog build and doleful countenance also appeared in harrowing dramas and comedies. He died at 83.

The Las Vegas Aces.Sarah Stier/Getty Images

W.N.B.A.: The Las Vegas Aces won their second straight championship after a 70-69 win over the New York Liberty.

N.B.A.: James Harden of the Philadelphia 76ers continues to miss team events as trade talks with the Clippers have stalled.

M.L.B. playoffs: The Houston Astros beat the Texas Rangers, 8-5, cutting the Rangers’ A.L.C.S edge to 2-1.

A scene from “All the Light We Cannot See.”Atsushi Nishijima/Netflix, via Associated Press

Breaking barriers: “All the Light We Cannot See,” a Pulitzer-winning novel, tells the story of an amateur radio enthusiast named Marie-Laure who lives in occupied France during World War II and is blind. On a new Netflix series based on the book, the two actors who play Marie-Laure are blind themselves — a first for a major TV series. The Times visited the film set, in Budapest, to see how the production changed to accommodate the actors.

  • The British Museum revealed a plan to stop thefts, months after it fired a curator suspected of stealing artifacts.

  • The late night hosts joked about Biden’s trip to Israel.

Christopher Testani for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Simon Andrews.

Roast broccoli, then top with lemon juice.

Don’t rake leaves. They’re home to an entire ecosystem.

Clean your hairbrush. Here’s how to do it.

Buy a winter coat that keeps your dog dry and warm.

Here is today’s Spelling Bee. Yesterday’s pangram was hawthorn.

And here are today’s Mini Crossword, Wordle, Sudoku and Connections.

Thanks for spending part of your morning with The Times. See you tomorrow. — David

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