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A Long Commute: John Olko

Oct 14th, 2009 | By | Category: Front Page, People


Some Etown residents work in or near town. Many commute to Harrisburg or Lancaster and some even farther. This is the story of one E-town resident, John Olko, who commutes daily to Trenton, NJ. John grew up in Garfield NJ, about 15 miles from New York City. He earned a degree in Environmental Science from Stockton State College. He and his family moved to E-town about 3 years ago. He enjoys time with my family and competing in triathlons.

EJ: Could you tell me a little about the position you hold now in Trenton?

JO: I am a Supervising Environmental Specialist with the NJ Department of Environmental Protection. I supervise/coordinate the work activities of our 3 regional field offices that perform water pollution and drinking water enforcement related work. I have been with the department for 19 years. I am also the primary contact between the department and the EPA.

EJ: Were you working there before you moved to Elizabethtown?

JO: Yes

EJ: Where were you living before you moved to Elizabethtown?

JO: We lived in Hopewell Township, NJ. If you know where George Washington crossed the Delaware River, that was very close to my house.

EJ: What was the primary consideration that led you to keep that job and engage in a long commute?

I met my wife in college, she graduated from Etown and her sister has lived in this area for 19 years. So, I have been commuting to Etown one way or another for the past 20 years. It just seemed to be the place to move to. We knew the area and liked the fact that it is not as busy as NJ and is way cheaper. I have kept my job with the NJ DEP for 19 years and have built up benefits and seniority that make it difficult to leave. I would consider other employment; I just have not found what I am looking for yet.

EJ: This is quite a commute; could you briefly describe what it entails?

JO: My day starts at 4:20 a.m. I leave the house by 5, buy a newspaper and get on the train around 5:15. If the trains are on time I can get to Trenton around 7:30. My trip home is about the same. Depending on what train I take I can be home between 5:15 and 6:20. I have a laptop and get work done on the train.

EJ: What are the most interesting situations that you have encountered or observed on your commute?

JO: Last summer the train broke down and we had to switch to another train in the middle of the tracks. It was like a bunch of cattle, as we had to shove people up the steps into the train. One other time, we were late because the train had to wait for local police to come and arrest a passenger who was too drunk to ride the train!

EJ: Does spending 5 hours a day commuting present any challenges with daily living or having enough time with your family?

JO: Since I get home at a decent time it’s not that bad. I can’t think about it, I just do it.

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