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Commuter Idle: Nearly 4-hour commute costs D.C. worker $1,500 a month

Friday - 5/24/2013, 7:31am  ET

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Roseline Gorantla checks her phone for any emails about Metro delays for the next leg of her megacommute from Pennsylvania to D.C. She takes the MARC train from Perryville, Md., to Union Station as part of her almost four-hour long commute each morning. (WTOP/Ari Ashe)

2 long commutes strain Pa. couple's budget

WTOP's Ari Ashe reports.

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A mad dash to the office

WTOP's Ari Ashe reports.

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PERRYVILLE, Md. - By the time Roseline Gorantla gets into her office each day, she has already had a full day.

She wakes up each morning at 4 a.m. and makes breakfast for herself and her husband, Hari.

"I start from West Chester, Pa. Me and my husband work. He works in New York City and I work in D.C.," she says.

He works at Standard & Poors on Wall Street, and she works at the Nuclear Energy Institute in downtown D.C., which offered a more manageable commute when she lived in Vienna, Va.

But when the couple married recently, they compromised on a location halfway between their jobs and ended up in the Philadelphia suburbs.

For seven months she has made the almost four-hour, one-way trip. The stressful commute leaves her tired and provides little time to spend with her husband.

"We literally don't even have time to talk enough. We just say, 'Hi. OK. Fine.' That's it," she says.

Instead, they rely on text messages to stay in touch throughout the day.

The 24-year-old doesn't have any children yet. But Gorantla says she plans to stop making the commute to D.C. long before she and her husband would start a family.

Gorantla usually gets into her car around 4:45 a.m. or 5 a.m. to make the one-hour -- or more -- drive from West Chester, Pa., to the MARC station in Perryville, Md. Perryville is in Cecil County.

"I usually listen to Christian music on the radio," she says. "I also have my coffee. Without it, I wouldn't be able to get to my car in the morning."

By the time WTOP meets Gorantla in Perryville, it's just after 6 a.m. and she is purchasing a $14 MARC ticket to Union Station. From there, she'll pull out her SmarTrip card and go to Metro Center.

While that doesn't seem like too much, when you add up her costs for fuel, MARC and Metro trips, the price climbs quickly.

"It's around $1,500 for me and $1,500 for my husband per month. So $3,000 for both of us," she says.

Do the math, and that's $36,000 per year — more than some Americans' annual salaries.

"We are cutting down on all other costs to put it on this commute," she says.

"Wow, if you're telling me the big number, it's sounding more distinct. But, I don't think we're going to do this for more than a year."

For Gorantla, the easiest part of the commute is the drive to MARC.

She says there isn't much traffic at 5 a.m. in Pennsylvania or northeastern Maryland. Even the MARC train is usually reliable. Parking isn't much of an issue because the Perryville station isn't too crowded on most days.

The most difficult part comes about three hours into her megacommute.

"The biggest challenge is Metro. If there's a problem on the Red Line, that can make a huge difference. And it seems like once a week there is an issue," she says.

But as she approaches Union Station at 8:06 a.m., Gorantla sees no emails from her office about Red Line delays, nor any warnings on her iPhone from the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority's website.

After a short walk from MARC to Metro, she just misses a train. But no worry, another Red Line train is just two minutes away. Before she knows it, the train has arrived.

At 8:20 a.m., Gorantla arrives at Metro Center and the final sprint is on to her office. She is due in at 8:30 a.m., so every minute counts.

"I am going to take a shortcut to the office, a shortcut inside Metro," she says as she goes up the escalator, then down the escalator on the other side of the tracks and exits at the farthest point from where she arrived.

Gorantla tells WTOP that shortcut saved her five to seven minutes because she didn't need to go outside and cross several busy D.C. streets during rush hour.

She opens the door to her office at 8:27 a.m., just three minutes before her morning staff meeting begins.

"Every day it's like that, just in the nick of time," she says. "Everyone is getting to work with a fresh mind and I'm already tired."

Her total commute this particular morning took three hours, 42 minutes. She calls it a good day.

Unfortunately for Gorantla, she must do it all over again in eight hours.

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