NO to Year-Round Daylight Savings Time. YES to moving the time zones west

November 14th, 2010 by Al Lewis (alewis)

Type in “year-round daylight savings time” and Google gives you about 300,000 hits.  300,000 wrong answers to 300,000 wrong questions.    If we went on year-round daylight savings time, instead of complaining how it gets dark at 4:30, we would soon start complaining about how it doesn’t get light until 8:30 AM.  

And if you look at these Google hits, almost every one of them comes from someone living in the eastern section of a time zone.  In the western sections, people are generally complaining about their children going to school in the dark during the winter.  

Here are a few factoids:

·         Every place on earth gets 12 hours of daylight on average.  The closer you live to a pole, the more this daylight varies day to day, with the highest latitudes enjoying “the midnight sun” in summertime.   On the other hand, playing with the clocks all you want won’t create more daylight in December;

·         Places at the eastern ends of time zones will have earlier sunrises and sunsets.  That gives New England, added onto the eastern edge of the Eastern Time Zone, the shortest summertime evenings in the country despite the high latitude;

·         The time zones were set up in the 1880s, when most Americans lived more or less by the sun.  More than half the workforce farmed and few people had electricity.

Here’s the real problem:   Most Americans no longer live by the sun.  Average bedtimes are two hours later than they were 100 years ago.    The current time zones are obsolete.  

Asking whether we should go to year-round daylight savings time is the wrong question and here’s why.  Most of us in the winter are already up before dawn and leave work after nightfall.   The real waste of sunlight takes place during the Daylight Savings Time months, not the other months.  Year-round daylight time wouldn’t help that at all. 

Here in Boston the June 21st sunrise is at 5:07, the earliest of any major city in the world in our latitude, giving us at least an hour of wasted, unwanted, sunlight.  In fact, the three summer months waste about three workweeks’ worth of sunlight.  The “year-round daylight time” solution would do nothing to solve that.

Since no one is asking the right question, no one is getting the right answer.  The right question is:  Do the current time zones still make sense?  The answer is, of course not.   We don’t live the same way we lived 100 years ago.   The time zone boundaries should be shifted at least 300-400 miles west. (Alternatively or in addition, New England should get its own time zone, so we can enjoy daylight until 9:00 or 9:30 during the summer, while waking up and going to work before it gets hot.)

Most places in the country would then enjoy much longer summer evenings, meaning less energy use, more opportunities for outdoor recreation and commerce, a boost to vacation areas and downtowns especially.  (Don’t take my word for it – just go to Europe, where cites hum all evening with foot traffic in the extended daylight.)  Most of all, these new time zones would improve the quality of life.   Bottom line is that we would all have more fun.

 Implementation?  A piece of cake.  A one-hour time change, once.  Alternatively, we could join the Atlantic Time Zone simply by not “falling back” next November.  

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2 Responses to “NO to Year-Round Daylight Savings Time. YES to moving the time zones west”

  1. Michael Johanson Says:

    I like this proposal, but it sounds a little redundant. Isn’t the author proposing year round daylight time for New England by having them move to Atlantic Standard Time? My opinion is that the Federal Government should extend daylight time observance to year round. Then states in the western portions of the time zones could opt out of DST if they so wish, like Arizona and Hawaii, shifting to the time zone to the west. (Arizona effectively shifts to Pacifc time every summer and back to Mountain time in the winter.)This would accomplish the goal of shifting the time zones as proposed in this article without too much legislative debate as to where the new time zones should begin and end. It also allows the states to decide what time zone is best for them rather than the Federal Government, which probably has no idea concerning the natural daylight patterns of the different regions throughout the country. I love this idea, but I think a year round DST bill is the simplest way to accomplish it.

  2. Al Lewis Says:

    no–a time zone change is not the same as year-round DST (though that is a better idea than what we have now). In a time zone change the SUMMER sunset would be an hour later too, not just the winter sunset. So in Boston on 6/21, instead of rising at 5:07 and setting at 8:24, the sun would rise at 6:07 and set at 9:24.

    And yes, states that alreadyborder another timezone could indeed do this on their own. Why Main doesn’t do it already is anyone’s guess. The run rises before 5 AM in many parts of the state on many days in the summer.

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