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3 Cities, 3 Terrible Commutes

A new documentary follows the epic journeys faced by commuters in Istanbul, Mexico City, and Los Angeles.
Traffic in Mexico City, where monster mega-commutes are a grim fact of life.
Traffic in Mexico City, where monster mega-commutes are a grim fact of life. Courtesy Luciana Kaplan/Taskovski Films

In the vast valley of the Mexico City metro area, home to more than 21 million people, short commutes are a rare luxury. According to the latest government survey, the average trip to work takes 57 minutes, and one out of three morning commutes takes more than an hour. But the truth is that many low-income workers suffer more than that. “I started to think about this problem when my daughter was younger and I hired a woman to help me take care of her,” says documentary filmmaker Luciana Kaplan, who is based in Mexico. “She would tell me that it took her three hours to come to work and then three hours going back. And something always happened to her on the way.”

The woman’s stories kept coming. She fell and injured her collarbone. She got robbed. The subway would break down. It was a constant source of stress. “I started asking more people in the city about this and I noticed that most live this life,” Kaplan says. The filmmaker was so fascinated by the city’s hypercommuters that she ended up devoting more than two years to researching and shooting the film Rush Hour, which was recently screened at the Hot Docs Festival in Toronto.