By Chris Holmes

The time Americans spend commuting is growing. According to the 2014 U.S. Census Bureau, it takes the average worker 26 minutes each way to get to work – which adds up to a total of nine full days a year commuting. The data also shows that many of us – 3.6 million to be exact – commute 90 minutes one way daily – which works out to spending three hours a day or a full month out of the year commuting.

Chris Holmes

“It’s not enough for the commute to go quickly and more smoothly – people want their commute to work for them.” — Chris Holmes, vice president of Mobile Commerce Solutions in the Payments and Public Sector at Xerox

Imagine what we could accomplish during that time.

Enter Commuting 2.0 – when commuting is more than just getting to and from work. Thanks to our plethora of e-gadgets we carry, we are connected during our commute on the bus, car, train or ferry. The trick is to use those gadgets – and our time — wisely.

Thankfully, there are apps for everything, including reducing our commute time and calculating which option is the most sustainable.

Transit authorities in Los Angeles and Denver offer Go LA and Go Denver apps that aggregate and present real-time transit data at the fingertips of harried commuters, allowing them to make quick and time-saving travel adjustments on the fly. Users can see route options including public transit, driving a car, biking and using ride-sharing services, allowing them to select the best option for that particular day. Auto accident causing a back-up on the highway? Train running late? No problem. The apps learn user preferences and help commuters alter commuting plans in real time.

The Go LA app and the Go Denver app are now available for iOS and Android systems in the Apple and Google Play stores.

The Shop and Ride app for NJ Transit is available only for iOS.

It’s not enough for the commute to go quickly and more smoothly – people want their commute to work for them.

Thanks to advances in wireless, Bluetooth beacon technology and the Internet of Things, connected commuters can do more than catch a few Pokémon or read the latest news or that book club novel. They can use their commute time wisely by crossing a few items off that never ending to-do list.

A 2015 survey by SessionM found that 90 percent of retail shoppers use smartphones to shop. Why not reserve a table at that top-rated restaurant, or order a custom birthday cake from the local bakery – all at a discount?

New Jersey commuters can do this using the Shop and Ride app recently launched by Xerox, the New Jersey Transit authority, AR James Media and retailers in the City of Hoboken. Commuters with simply download the app to their smartphones and enable their Bluetooth device during their commute to start the savings and multi-tasking.

The app takes advantage of beacon technology located in public transit locations. Merchants deliver personalized, hyperlocal mobile offers to transit riders based on their preferences and travel patterns. The app notifies commuters of retail offers in the area or at a particular store they’ve indicated interest in.

To give you an idea of the variety and type of offers New Jersey commuters are enjoying, consider these recent offers:

  • 50% off first visit of $150 for just $75 at Hoboken Chiropractic + Wellness.
  • $5 off Zumba class at Celebrate Life Studio.
  • Free ½ Liter Pilsner Haus Original with appetizer.
  • 10% off your first custom cake at Om Sweet Home.
  • 20% off magic massage for all at Massage by Dusty.

In the Shop and Ride app, commuters can save a coupon to redeem it immediately or at a later time with a single swipe on their phone. Can you think of a better way to use those commuting hours? Now if they could just devote one railcar to offering chair massages — that would make for a great commute!