Commuting Has Always Been Soul-Crushing, but There Are Inspiring Options

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As a matter of principle, it shouldn’t be soul-crushing to get somewhere you don’t even want to go. That’s why commuting to work can awaken such elemental feelings of dread, powerlessness and rage.

You strategize. You wake early. You wedge your body into an obscenely packed subway or inch your car along a planet-killing freeway. Finally, you are victorious: Congratulations, you’ve made it to the office! By the way, there’s now a pre-meeting before the meeting. Todd brought mini bagels.

The photographs here all ran in The Times and capture commuters from the 1940s onward. One of the more striking images, taken by Dith Pran in 1981, shows a New Yorker in a turtleneck sweater and winter coat holding open the subway doors so another woman can join what looks like a hellscape inside. It’s a peculiarly urban sort of kindness.

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