Sunday, July 09, 2006

Letter: State should be in Central zone

My letter to the editor, published Saturday, 8 July 2006.

We have now lived through our first three months in recent history of daylight-saving time. In June and July we observe the more conspicuous peculiarities of staying on Eastern time rather than going back to Central.

The longest day of the year was June 21 — almost 15 hours of daylight. If we had only 60 minutes of daylight shifted from morning to evening that day, sunrise would be 5:32 am, midday 1, and sunset 8:28 pm.

Instead, our earliest sunrise of the year is 6:17 am, our latest midday is 1:50 pm, and our latest sunset is 9:14 pm.

These later times illustrate that we have about 105 minutes of daylight shifted from morning to evening in Columbus. Compared to Central time, this is about three times further than necessary from the DST “design goal” of 60 minutes.

I have heard mixed feelings about this 45-minute excess of evening daylight compared to “nominal” DST. For example, one of my coworkers says he enjoys the extra time for a longer bike ride after work. But, like poet Robert Louis Stevenson, he notices that it is harder to get his visiting grandchildren to sleep when they “have to go to bed by day.”

I frequently hear those with early morning jobs and appointments lament the difficulty of trying to fall asleep while it is still light out, or of getting up by dark on midsummer mornings, when it is “supposed” to be light out.

Indiana is the narrowest state split into two time zones. The next wider is Idaho — more than twice as wide as Indiana. The entire state of Indiana falls well within the natural boundaries of Central time. All 92 counties were on Central time for more than four decades (1918 through 1961). The sun takes 60 minutes to cross each of the 24 time zones. It takes just under 13 minutes to cross from our eastern to our western border. I.e., Indiana is about one-fourth of a time zone wide.

By contrast, Alaska is about 18 times wider than Indiana. It takes about 228 minutes for the sun to get from one side to the other. It is wide enough to be in three or four different time zones and yet it is virtually all on one time zone. Indiana is so narrow it makes me wonder what the feds were thinking when they ever carved us into two time zones in the first place.

The predominant reason Gov. Mitch Daniels gave for pushing Indiana back onto DST was the economic benefit and increased efficiency for business of changing time with the rest of the country. It only stands to reason that putting the whole state back on a single time again would be even less confusing, and therefore even more beneficial for Hoosier businesses.

In their 2006 ruling on Indiana’s time zone, the DOT wrote that their decision was meant to allow communities to fully assess the impact of DST observance. They also reminded governmental representatives that they are free to petition at any time for further changes to the time zone boundary.

Now that we have had a chance to assess the impact of DST on our daily lives, I see much to be gained, and little to be lost, in urging our governor and state legislators to ask the DOT to put the whole state back on Central time again.

Letter: State should be in Central zone