Sunday, August 29, 2010

Indiana time zone battle back in spotlight

Mark Ambrogi has a nice article at on the statewide meeting of the Central Time Coalition (CTC) at Monon Center in Carmel on Saturday, 28 August 2010.

Indiana time zone battle back in spotlight --

Judging by the quick posting of over 300 comments already since the article went up this morning, the time zone is still a matter of much interest to many Hoosiers.

In skimming through some of the comments, I see that there is still some misunderstanding over the difference between the separate, but related, issues of Daylight Saving Time (DST) and the time zone.

Just to be very clear, the CTC proposes continuing to observe DST along with most of the rest of the country and world, but restoring most of all of the state to the central time zone (with individual counties able to request continuing to observe eastern time, such as those in the Cincinnati and Louisville metropolitan areas).

The geographic center of the central time zone is 90 degrees west longitude, running north-south nearly through Peoria, Illinois -- about 215 miles due west of Indianapolis.

The geographic center of eastern time is 75 degrees west longitude, running through Philadelphia -- about 645 miles due east of Indy.

The natural dividing line between eastern and central time is 82.5 degrees, running through the middle of Ohio and down the eastern borders of Michigan, Kentucky, and Tennessee.

Geographically, there is not a square inch of Indiana anywhere near the eastern time zone, the natural western edge of which lies near Columbus, Ohio -- about 175 miles east of Indy and about 100 miles east of Indiana's eastern border.

Before observing DST, Hoosiers on eastern standard time already had about 45 minutes of daylight shifted from morning to evening year-round. During the 7.8 months of DST, those Hoosiers on eastern time now have an additional 60 minutes of daylight shifted from morning to evening, resulting in unnaturally late sunrises and sunsets compared to most other locations at our latitude.

Some folks talk about wanting to put a time zone referendum on the Indiana ballot. According to the following IndyStar article, a non-binding statewide referendum was conducted in 1956, asking voters their preference on Eastern versus Central time and whether to use daylight-saving time in the summer months.

A Brief History of Time (in Indiana)

"The only clear consensus that emerges is that most oppose the 'double-fast time' that would result from being on Eastern Standard Time and switching to Eastern Daylight Time in the summer."

Ironically, this is exactly what we ended up with some 50 years later.

Some who favor staying on eastern time are concerned about the early winter darkness we would have with central time. On central time, the earliest sunset in Indy would be 4:20 pm for the first two weeks of December. When it actually gets dark is around civil twilight, which is about 4:45 pm.

This only seems earlier than normal because the eastern time zone Indiana counties have not experienced "normal" winter sunsets since about 1961. "Normal" for Indiana's latitude is what you see at the middle of any time zone due east or west of us. At those locations, the "normal" early December sunset time is about 4:30 to 4:35 pm (Philadelphia, Peoria, Denver, Reno). So a 4:20 sunset on central time is more nearly normal for our latitude than 5:20.

The problem with eastern time for farmers is not the farming itself, but the evening activities such as childrens' sports, school board meetings, etc. that cut into the farmer's work day an hour more on eastern time than they would on central time.

On the 23rd page of comments, josefK wrote (perhaps tongue in cheek) that he supports Newfoundland time. Ironically, everyone whose clocks are set to Eastern Daylight Time (UTC - 4 hours) is observing the natural clock time (Local Mean Time) of Goose Bay, Labrador, Canada (60 degrees longitude).

One thing never much mentioned is that many people have the schedule flexibility to shift more of their daylight to the end of the day regardless of what time the government tells us to set our clocks to. For example, the city of Columbus, Indiana has an 8 am to 5 pm schedule during the school year and switches to a 7-to-4 schedule during the summer break. Many businesses could do the same thing, effectively doing the same thing DST does, but on a voluntary, local basis, for those that want less daylight in the morning and more in the evening.

If or when Indiana is restored to its natural time zone of Central, any business whose employees want to have the same amount of evening daylight as they have now can simply move their day shift schedule an hour earlier. So instead of working 8 to 5 eastern daylight time, they can work 7 to 4 central daylight time and employees can have the exact same amount of daylight after work as they have now.


Anonymous said...

Bill....I must comment to you about such a silly comment you made about central time zone. You must work at a factory. It would be simple to change shift hours for a factory. But all businesses aren't factories. If we change EDST, my business expenses will go up (lights, etc), my employees and my personal evening activities will be dark. My business is open 8am to 8pm with 55 employees. your shift idea does not compute with my business. The last 5 years have been a godsend for my family, business, and employees. Before we went on EDST, My employees-there families, my children suffered because it was dark when we finally got home. Now, we get to spend quality sunlight time with them until bedtime. Please, consider all businesses. Think of Motorcycle dealerships, carlots, retail sales, etc. I'm 55 and lived in Indiana all my life. my 26 year old kids missed dad growing up because of less sunlight when he worked till 8pm and couldnt go out and throw a ball with them. But i sure got to golf with them the last 6 years. People like you will take that away from them. I get home now and see little kids outside playing till 9pm. Your way will have them inside playing Nintendo.....great!

Bill Starr said...

Thank you for your feedback on how having an hour and 45 minutes of daylight shifted from morning to evening during the 8 months of eastern DST each year since 2006 has had a positive impact on your life.

Anyone who thinks they're working 8 am to 5 pm in central Indiana on eastern daylight time (EDT) is actually working a 6:15 am to 3:15 pm shift based on the natural clock time (aka Local Mean Time).

Restoring most or all of Indiana back to central time just makes that a little more obvious, whether they're actually able to shift their work hours or not.

Yes, some families might choose Nintendo, but others would choose an earlier start on homework, and getting to bed at a decent hour to be well rested for school and work the next day, if sunset came an hour closer to normal again.

Some would also occasionally enjoy some of the hour doing a little amateur astronomy before bedtime, enjoying God's handiwork in the heavens.

foretell said...

Anonymous may enjoy EDST personally but I am mystified as to how EDST helps his retail business.
Most people do not think about getting out of bed to go retail shopping in the morning until the sun comes up. Most people do not think about going retail shopping in the evening until the sun goes down.
If Anonymous is depending upon the business of persons like me in the morning, his employees are going to be standing around for an hour with nothing to do. If Anonymous is depending upon the business of persons like me in the evening, I probably won’t be arriving until after his store is closed.
The Best Buy store that I go to, for example, stays open an hour later in the summer.
Anonymous’ way will hurt the economy … great!