BOSTON (CBS) – This week a lot of us have probably stolen a second glance at a clock to make sure it’s right. We’ve had an extra cup of coffee or two. And we definitely have had some very dark evening commutes. Such is life under Eastern Standard Time. But there’s one man on a crusade to put an end to the madness.
Tom Emswiler, a health advocate in the Boston area, says we should unite under one time-zone banner. But Eastern Time isn’t it. He says if you’re going to choose a time zone, why not pick the one you’re already using eight months a year? Atlantic Standard Time – the same as Daylight Saving Time all year long.
“The point I’m trying to get across is that New England lies so much farther east that we really are in a different part of the country,” says Emswiler.
It’s true; our sunsets are markedly later than our friends in Hartford, CT or New York, NY. The earliest of the year will come on December 8th – a miserable 4:11pm. This issue comes to (lack of) light because the Eastern Time zone is enormous. It’s the largest of any in the U.S., and we’re on the far end of it. Atlantic Standard Time is the zone used by eastern Canada, parts of the Caribbean, and much of South America.
But Dr. David Prerau, author of ‘Seize the Daylight,’ says changing our ways could get messy.
“Living near a time zone boundary is not very pleasant. People find it confusing, inconvenient, troublesome,” says Prerau. He notes that many of the borders are placed in areas where population isn’t quite as dense, to help mitigate the complications. And that we are at particular risk of regional confusion if we secede from EST.
“We’re in the same time zone as the financial capital of New York and the political capital of Washington, and that’s a huge benefit,” says Prerau. In fact, this is why the eastern zone is so large. Many cities and towns find that being on the same time as these important centers is a huge benefit.
Imagine us on Atlantic Time. Where would you draw the line? Would it just be Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island? All of New England? That would probably be easiest, but also messiest for NYC commuters. Imagine leaving Stamford, CT in one zone and arriving in NYC 40 minutes later in another! Makes for great sleeping-in opportunities, but your evening commute would be a time warp. Leaving at 6p and having a 1 hour commute means you’d get home at 8pm. Your evening would evaporate, making up for that late alarm clock buzzer to start the day.
If we did decide to vote for change and stick to one clock all year long, it’s true our sunsets would be later in the winter. But it also means our mornings would be a lot darker. Tougher to get out of bed, a slow commute on snowy dark mornings, but also a potential risk to school kids waiting out at the bus stop or walking to class. However, Emswiler sees that as more of an opportunity to kill two birds with one stone.
“High schoolers and middle schoolers don’t get enough sleep. There’s been a number who have suggested we should start later. I think this is an excellent opportunity to discuss that.”
So what if you’re on board? Well the first step would be petitioning your local lawmakers and getting the state to take up the conversation. They could vote on it, and then submit their plan to the Federal Department of Transportation. That’s the agency in charge of time in our country. Then, and only then, could we ever possibly join the Atlantic Time party. And that’s the day Emswiler dreams of. When he can look out of his office window at 4:30pm in November, and see the sun.
“One person can change the world, or at least a region!” notes Emswiler.
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