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United States Government Technology

A Plan To Fix Daylight Savings Time By Creating Two National Time Zones 545

Posted by timothy
from the overdue-and-by-more-than-an-hour dept.
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Allison Schrager writes in the Atlantic that losing another hour of evening daylight isn't just annoying. It's an economically harmful policy with minimal energy savings. "The actual energy savings are minimal, if they exist at all. Frequent and uncoordinated time changes cause confusion, undermining economic efficiency. There's evidence that regularly changing sleep cycles, associated with daylight saving, lowers productivity and increases heart attacks." So here's Schrager's proposal. This year, Americans on Eastern Standard Time should set their clocks back one hour (like normal), Americans on Central and Rocky Mountain time do nothing, and Americans on Pacific time should set their clocks forward one hour. This will result in just two time zones for the continental United States and the east and west coasts will only be one hour apart. "America already functions on fewer than four time zones," says Schrager. "I spent the last three years commuting between New York and Austin, living on both Eastern and Central time. I found that in Austin, everyone did things at the same times they do them in New York, despite the difference in time zone. People got to work at 8 am instead of 9 am, restaurants were packed at 6 pm instead of 7 pm, and even the TV schedule was an hour earlier. " Research based on time use surveys found American's schedules are already determined more by television than daylight suggesting, in effect, that Americans already live on two time zones. Schrager says that this strategy has already been proven to work in other parts of the world. China has been on one time zone since 1949, despite naturally spanning five time zones and in 1983, Alaska, which naturally spans four time zones, moved most of the state to a single time zone. "It sounds radical, but it really isn't. The purpose of uniform time measures is coordination. How we measure time has always evolved with the needs of commerce.," concludes Schrager. "Time is already arbitrary, why not make it work in our favor?""
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A Plan To Fix Daylight Savings Time By Creating Two National Time Zones

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  • Daylight Saving Time (Score:5, Informative)

    by Speare (84249) on Saturday November 02, 2013 @07:29AM (#45310319) Homepage Journal
    The title contains a pet peeve of mine: it's Daylight Saving Time, not 'savings.' It's not a bank where you deposit an hour and get it back in a 'savings account.'
    • by SJHillman (1966756) on Saturday November 02, 2013 @07:34AM (#45310345)

      But we do deposit an hour in the spring and withdraw it in the fall. The 0% interest rate just really sucks.

    • by MightyYar (622222)

      I call it "Savings". Ain't changing language grand?

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        I call it "Savings". Ain't changing language grand?

        Yes, failing to get a simple thing right and regarding yourself as the better man for it is just wonderful.

    • by smitty_one_each (243267) * on Saturday November 02, 2013 @07:50AM (#45310425) Homepage Journal
      Would "Affordable Timecare Act" excite you more?
    • by memnock (466995) on Saturday November 02, 2013 @07:55AM (#45310443)

      I hate that bloody time change. If we just get rid of it, we don't have to worry about what it's called at all.

    • But when you add a saving today, a saving tomorrow and a saving the next day, you do in fact get "savings" in daylight time. Or at least, that's what they want you to believe--I think they need to ditch the garbage completely. It causes more harm than good and is not worth fixing. We need reliable time, and you can't have that when you're forced to waste time fucking with your damn clocks every year. Just fucking give us standard time year round already, enough of this DST bullshit.

    • by sribe (304414)

      It's not a bank where you deposit an hour and get it back in a 'savings account.'

      But you do. You put an hour in, in the spring, and take it back out, in the fall ;-)

  • like that works (Score:5, Insightful)

    by peragrin (659227) on Saturday November 02, 2013 @07:41AM (#45310383)

    time zones exist because the sun sets later in the west than it does in the east. It was a fact I knew but didn't fully grasp until I moved 400 miles east along roughly the same latitude in the same eastern time zone. We were sitting outside enjoying a camp fire on the summer solstice when some one asked when the sun would set. Having spent many a summer outside at my previous place I knew it would roughly be 9pm. however I didn't take into account the difference 400 miles makes. The sun really set 30 minutes earlier.

    Now in a corporate world time zones only matter in relation to when other people will be at their desks. However in the real world, where one has kids, and after school sports, hell even trick or treating, it makes all the difference in the world. Those on the eastern edge will always be screwed by things shutting down earlier. As so much just can't be done after dark, and it gets really expensive to light up every field, park, and body of water just to be able to live life after work.

    • by Mr D from 63 (3395377) on Saturday November 02, 2013 @08:09AM (#45310503)
      Time zones are an evil scheme intended to divide humanity and ensure some groups are always behind.
      • by bondsbw (888959)

        Good thing we have International Date Line Welfare. If you get too far behind, you'll be pushed ahead of everyone else!

    • by Kjella (173770)

      As so much just can't be done after dark, and it gets really expensive to light up every field, park, and body of water just to be able to live life after work.

      But that's where our current time zones are totally off the mark. I just checked and today the sun rises at 8 AM and sets at 4 PM (yes, I'm quite far north) and guess what my working hours are? Basically I go to work at dawn, sit in an office until dusk then go home and enjoy the whole evening in darkness with artificial lights. I get it, some occupations like construction depends on natural lighting but by far the majority work indoors like me where it matters very little if it's dark outside or not. If we

    • Well here's a strange thought. If you don't have enough daylight after work, how about going to work an hour early, and getting out an hour early? Nothing really gets done early or late in the work day anyway, so co-ordinating with others' time in the office shouldn't bee that big of a deal (as long as everyone is there during a core 5-hour period).

      • by sjames (1099)

        Because people have this thing called a boss, sometimes depicted with pointy hair? He's congenitally predisposed to doing the wrong thing for productivity or morale given the free choice but he can be tricked by things like resetting the office clock.

  • by weave (48069) on Saturday November 02, 2013 @07:42AM (#45310387) Journal

    The reason for timezones is to somewhat coordinate daylight with when we are up and about. Obviously this can be shift a bit each way and the seasons certain screw with that, but on the plan OP posted, the west coast would be light until after 1am in the Summer and remain dark until about 10am in the Winter.

    If you'd want to do two zones, they should be at least two hours apart from each other.

  • Do Away With It! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DaMattster (977781) on Saturday November 02, 2013 @07:43AM (#45310393)
    I say just do away with daylight savings time altogether! All we really need is two time zones: one for east of the Mississippi and one for the west. Simplicity is underrated.
    • Just make sure we do away with DST after the autumn change.
    • by squiggleslash (241428) on Saturday November 02, 2013 @08:04AM (#45310479) Homepage Journal

      I once read a long pointless diatribe against standard time demanding that we make Daylight Saving's Time permanent - that's an hour of my life I'll never get back...

      (Rimshot)

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Since I cross the Mississippi to get to work, I'm not sure I could handle leaving for work at 6:30 in the morning and arriving 15 minutes later at 5:45.

    • > one for east of the Mississippi and one for the west. Simplicity is underrated.

      And how, precisely, does leaving most of the midwestern US's largest cities split between two timezones make things any simpler for real people? Look at the Mississippi River, and notice how many big cities straddle it.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 02, 2013 @07:44AM (#45310399)

    Is to abolish it. It serves no legitimate purpose anymore. Standard time for all!

  • http://romanvoices.wikispaces.com/Roman+Timekeeping [wikispaces.com]

    With computerized everything, we can just alter the days in perfect sync. And once we kill television schedules and make everything on demand it won't matter "when" something comes on!

  • by fermion (181285) on Saturday November 02, 2013 @07:57AM (#45310453) Homepage Journal
    I have been changing clocks all my life and it simply has not been the nerve racking. I don't know where all the drama is coming from.

    And less so now when most clocks are set automatically, and the few that aren't have 'dst' switches. Get to work an hour earlier or an hour later. It is just one of those costs of living in society. I know some people are very compulsive, and this causes stress, but I see DST no more inconvenient than speed limits. If there is a real problem it is that instead of just going with majority rule on something that is largely trivial, some communities are boneheads and want everything their way.

    That said, I think most of the reasons for DST have diminished with time. While switching is easier now, the world is different. The fact that the US is now completely linked with instant communication and many people are now no longer primarily part of one region is a factor.

    At some point a rational discussion on this will be possible, and it will likely end. Some of this going to be generational. While some of the world have been using DST from the early 20th century, in the US has only been widespread for maybe 50 years. This means that some people who are very attached to it are still alive.

    • So if it causes some people stress with little benefit (possibly even detriment) to millions of people, it is not a big deal? Sounds like a big deal to me.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 02, 2013 @08:32AM (#45310625)

      And less so now when most clocks are set automatically, and the few that aren't have 'dst' switches

      Which of course was broken when Congress and the President decided to move the time changes in the fall and spring for no reason. Many of those automatic clocks now don't work correctly and can't be reprogrammed. So yes, it is a big deal. Also, you still see cases of DST causing problems in computer systems and mobile devices.

      Here's the rational discussion: there is simply no need for DST. Anyone attached to it is not being rational. Whether we have two, four, or six time zones is meaningless to me. But moving time around arbitrarily is complete nonsense.

    • I have been changing clocks all my life and it simply has not been the nerve racking. I don't know where all the drama is coming from.

      For a while it seemed like every year I had acquired yet one more clock that needed resetting. Even now, however, not all or even a majority of my clocks support DST, either via a setting or automatically, and one of the worst offenders is the dashboard clock in my car. And some of the rituals required to change digital clocks are so arcane that I have to dig out the manuals every time.

      Aside from the annoyance of spending the next week chasing forgotten clocks, however, DST is pointless. The A/C runs accord

  • by fche (36607) on Saturday November 02, 2013 @07:58AM (#45310455)

    Why can't a conclusion be phrased as a statement instead of as a rhetorical question?

  • Sunset at 3:11 p.m.? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by kurisuto (165784) on Saturday November 02, 2013 @08:02AM (#45310469) Homepage

    Part of the proposal here is to reduce the U.S. to two time zones. The Eastern time zone would be on the same time as what's now Central Standard Time.

    I'm in Boston, MA. Under the proposed change, sunset in December would come at 3:11 p.m. Um, no, thanks.

  • by dcw3 (649211) on Saturday November 02, 2013 @08:07AM (#45310501) Journal

    "The actual energy savings are minimal, if they exist at all."

    Blah, blah, blah...She obviously doesn't know if they're minimal, because she doesn't know if they exist. You can love or hate it, but at least if you're going to argue for one side or the other, present some fucking facts.

    • by sribe (304414) on Saturday November 02, 2013 @09:09AM (#45310787)

      Blah, blah, blah...She obviously doesn't know if they're minimal, because she doesn't know if they exist. You can love or hate it, but at least if you're going to argue for one side or the other, present some fucking facts.

      The fact is that multiple studies have tried to document the extent of the alleged savings, and the conclusions vary from 0.18% at the high end, to an even more minuscule increase at the "low" end of the savings. Therefore her statement that "actual energy savings are minimal, if they exist at all" is a completely accurate summary of the facts.

      • Luckily for this discussion, the data actually exists. Indiana recently went from not changing time to chaning time. Turns out energy costs are 1-3% more under daylight saving time than with out it.

        Here's the citation:

        NBER WORKING PAPER SERIES
        DOES DAYLIGHT SAVING TIME SAVE ENERGY? EVIDENCE FROM A NATURAL EXPERIMENT IN INDIANA
        Matthew J. Kotchen Laura E. Grant
        Working Paper 14429 http://www.nber.org/papers/w14429 [nber.org]

        -Chris

  • by Phoenix666 (184391) on Saturday November 02, 2013 @08:26AM (#45310585)

    Yes, China's 5 time zones operate on a single time zone, which works great if you're in Beijing, but sucks balls if you're one of the poor schmucks in Urumqi who has to get to work at 3am.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Rational question: why?

      You will be at work 4 am - 12 noon, and then have the ultimate daylight savings time experience, 12-evening, at YOUR disposal, and not your employer's.

      Or course you go to bed at sunset usually, but one can argue thats natural.

  • by acroyear (5882) <jws-slashdot@javaclientcookbook.net> on Saturday November 02, 2013 @08:27AM (#45310593) Homepage Journal

    When the Bush-era change happened, I supervised the change in my company, having to track the dozens of updates of Windows, Java, and Oracle (often because each one had to incorporate a patch to detect if one of the other two had not actually been patched). This amounted to basically $50,000 of my companies dollars wasted for no actual benefit - $50,000 just to say we still worked.

    And the worst thing about it all was that even after all that money on our part, and on the part of Microsoft, Sun, and Oracle (who saw even less money relative to the efforts it took), nobody would be able to say 100% that it was "right". There still could have been one stupid little detail that would have gotten it wrong on the day of the switch or projecting forward to the switch-back.

    Current estimates is that the DST change of 2005 cost the economy $5 billion in expenses *just to keep working at all* - that's 5 billion that wasn't spent on improvements, or new features, or anything actually giving new value to their customers. It simply ceased to exist, for the illusion of savings in other markets (energy and retail) that never materialized.

    And I still saw most of my local trick-or-treaters after dark, so saying an extra hour of light for Halloween also was a pointless exercise.

    • by Dcnjoe60 (682885)

      Current estimates is that the DST change of 2005 cost the economy $5 billion in expenses *just to keep working at all* - that's 5 billion that wasn't spent on improvements, or new features, or anything actually giving new value to their customers. It simply ceased to exist, for the illusion of savings in other markets (energy and retail) that never materialized.

      If it cost $5B in expenses, that means somebody enjoyed $5B in revenues. OTOH, if it cost business $5B in lossed economic activity, that would be a drain on the economy. Almost all studies tied to the cost/benefit of DST are contradictory because there are so many variables and methodologies involved.

      These studies do aggree, however, that retailers prefer DST because it brings in more customers, traffic safety is improved because of more light for evening commutes and people tend to be more active outside t

    • You think it's bad in the U.S.? Look at Australia's plethora of time zones, and then consider that they don't all switch from standard time to summer time on the same days.
  • by ILongForDarkness (1134931) on Saturday November 02, 2013 @08:43AM (#45310675)

    What does it matter if we happen to live somewhere where the clocks say 7pm when the sun rises? I say one global time and you just use common sense when calling people far away ... like you got to do now when calling overseas anyways. I don't remember when daylight savings kicks in in Germany but I know they are ~4-6 hours away so sometime before noon seems okay.

    Heck we could even schedule things with the sun like people that work for themselves (farmers, construction etc) already can. You go to work sunrise + 1hr and work whatever number of hours that are expected. Everyone gets some daylight hours to themselves sure more in summer than winter but you aren't trying to dance the time around so that you can try to get some daylight only to epically fail in the northern latitudes: I live near Toronto sunrise in the winter is ~8am and sunset around 5 so you can literally commute to work in the dark and it is dark by the time you live the office seeing the sun for 0 hrs a day isn't a good thing if for no other reason than sometimes you need to do something outside where you can see what you are doing.

    I fight this in the office all the time and I don't see why cross office/company interaction needs to be any different: we need to remove the dependency on concurrent interaction. People send email and then knock on the door 10 min later and ask if you've seen it. We need to get in the habit of planning work enough that we can wait a couple days for a reply almost always and then learn to wait patiently not block waiting to make progress because we insist on dealing with things one at a time regardless of if the necessary person has time at the moment.

    • Oh and I might add that almost everything doesn't have to happen right now so running on an interrupt based scheduling model is just silly. Example from my work: Really you need this bug in the dev branch fixed RIGHT NOW? Really? When is the next integration build going to run? When is the next release? I'm pretty sure almost always things can wait a few hours and this is with CI since our test runs take 10hrs to run you are on average 5hrs away from anything that will affect others. Shipping at most compa

  • . . . then at the end of the year, I have a few days to myself.

    - Steven Wright

  • by adjectivity (2835755) on Saturday November 02, 2013 @08:46AM (#45310691)
    1. Human beings don't need daylight. Evolution disagrees with you. 2. Americans schedule their day based on television. The trends towards time shifting the medium are increasing. The television audience is decreasing due to competing forms of entertainment. 3. It would be easy. Our infrastructure is built around the current framework. Who here has seen bugs from moving DST this week? I know I have. 4. States would cooperate with this plan when we have two that ignore the established system. We have states that enjoy flaunting less intrusive national laws that effect far fewer individuals. 5. Congress can't even pass a budget. They have important issues that need to be addressed that they are unable to resolve. The ineptitude and inefficiencies are dragging down our economy, our reputation and our elected representatives seem to only be concerned with their own jobs. If you want to fix something, let's start with something that is actually broken.
  • You think it might happen because it would be good for the economy in general? Did you learn nothing from the recent government shutdown and threats to limit the debt ceiling? Our "representatives" in congress don't give a shit about the economy at large, only their own personal economies.

    The only way this could happen is if there was a huge financial player interested in it happening. Why would one of those guys spend money and political capital to push something like this through congress if they aren'

  • There is only one real fix - abolish time zones completely. As the summary states, time is arbitrary. Duration may be based on something concrete (like the decay of a particle or something), but the actual time itself is indeed arbitrary. Let's just agree that everyone uses UTC and call it done. Can you imagine the benefit? When is that world cup football (US: soccer) match on? Oh, at 17:00. Who gives a rat's ass where it is now? It is on when it is on. No, hmm, it is in Brazil, that is x time zones from me
  • by InvisiBill (706958) <slashdot@@@invisibill...net> on Saturday November 02, 2013 @08:53AM (#45310719) Homepage

    The article seems to state that the problem is the constant changing of the time forward and backward due to DST. The proposed solution involves one final change at a regular DST interval, then no longer using DST. However, that change also involves redefining our four US timezones into two as well. I understand that it may be easier to make major timezone changes all at once, but I'm not sure the second is really related to the first.

    I've seen other suggestions about simply not using DST anymore. It sure seems to me that today's modern technology and 24x7 scheduling make the idea of shifting daylight hours to different parts of the clock seem a bit outdated. Do we really save that much electricity on lighting to counteract the issues of dealing with changing the time around every six months?

    Something I read previously suggested switching to Summer time and no longer using Winter time. Here in Michigan, it starts getting colder and darker earlier, then the DST change hits and it's suddenly dark pretty much as soon as you leave work. I'm not a fan of the author's suggestion to switch to Winter time (even if it is the "Standard" time) permanently. I'd much rather deal with dark mornings and have a little bit of light after work during the winter. I'm at the later edge of Eastern Time, so this effect should be even worse for those on the East Coast who would be seeing sunrise and sunset before me.

    The author seems to make some reasonable points about people matching their activities to other timezones. I don't have enough experience to say whether that's really true for the majority of people, so as to justify converting the whole timezone. If we were to do this timezone rearrangement, the DST change might be a good time to do it, since people are already accustomed to moving their clocks an hour. However, I don't think it really has anything to do with the DST change, and personally I don't like the idea of my timezone moving to Winter time permanently.

    • I got a different impression of the author's agenda. Consider these bits (excerpted, but not unfairly taken out of context IMO):

      Traders in California start their day at 5 am to participate in New York markets. True, not all Californians work on East Coast time, but research by economists Daniel Hamermesh, Catlin Meyers, and Mark Peacock showed communities are more productive when there's more time coordination.
      [...]
      Frequent travel between the coasts causes jet lag, robbing employees of productive work

  • Humans are diurnal (Score:5, Insightful)

    by swm (171547) * <swmcd@world.std.com> on Saturday November 02, 2013 @08:55AM (#45310739) Homepage

    Humans are diurnal (dI-UR-nal).
    It means we sleep when it's dark and wake when it's light. (compare nocturnal)

    The primary purpose of DST is to keep our scheduled wake time (as determined by school, work, etc) close to sunrise.
    Everything else (energy savings! more shopping hours!) is just confusion and wishful thinking.

    The controlling factor isn't east-west, it's north-south.
    The further north you go, the more sunrise time varies with the seasons, and the more an adjustment like DST helps.

    Stuffing the whole country into two time zones is a non-fix for a non-problem.

    See also
    How congress broke Daylight Savings Time
    http://world.std.com/~swmcd/steven/letters/dst.html [std.com]

  • Well, if you are going to go as far as the Shrager suggests, then why not just eliminate all time zones. Let people on the West Coast get up and go to work at noon and go home at 8pm? Or you could go the otherway and people in New York get up and go to work at 6am and go home at 2pm but using the standard clock in CA. Or, you could pick the midwest as the middle and let both costs, were the majority of people live either go to work and school in the dark or come home that way.

    If you don't like Daylight Savi

  • by couchslug (175151) on Saturday November 02, 2013 @09:18AM (#45310829)

    Time zones were useful when we worked with clocks and dead-tree calendars. Those are antiquated.
    Modern comms make schedule adjustments easy and business "operating hours" would be more useful to all concerned if posted in GMT. If I need to contact a different country I don't have to figure out their time zone.

  • by skywire (469351) * on Saturday November 02, 2013 @10:29AM (#45311235)

    Even if we conceded the utility of collapsing the US from four time zones to two, the Atlantic writer's proposal would certainly not be the way to go. One desirable characteristic of setting time zone boundaries is to minimize the difference, whether positive or negative, between the clock and solar time. If it didn't matter, she might as well have picked any two random zones in the world. She clearly is aware of that principle, but she blew it in the application. As her proposal stands, Central and Eastern would always observe Eastern. Okay. But Pacific and Mountain would observe Central! Think about it. Central does not get to observe its own true time, while two other time zones do observe it, with one of those having a two-hour offset! The obvious solution is this: Pacific and Mountain observe Mountain. Central and Eastern observer Central. Now you would be using the two time zones most central to the country, with no zone offset more than an hour from solar. And two of them would have no offset.

  • by Sperbels (1008585) on Saturday November 02, 2013 @10:37AM (#45311293)
    I don't see why we don't look into tilting the Earth's axis back perpendicular to the plane of the ecliptic. Bam! Problem solved. And none of those pesky seasons either.
  • by AbRASiON (589899) * on Saturday November 02, 2013 @05:50PM (#45314303) Journal

    Americans seem to HATE the shit out of DST, why I don't know - it baffles me.
    There's always these debates, every year same old arguments each time.

    Fact is we lead mostly 9-5 lives. You can argue all you like that if I want more daylight, I should get up earlier and leave work earlier, that's never going to happen - life isn't going to change like that.
    I love the shit out of DST, it's beautiful, every Melbournian I know loves it, in summer we get these awesome awesome long evenings of light, peoples moods are better, you can go out and so and enjoy stuff for hours. If you're fortunate enough to finish work around 4-ish you can really get a lot done in peak summer. It's cheery and it's great.

    If anything, winter should be moved to DST too :/ I don't care if I'm going to work in the dark but coming home in the dark is gruesome and depressing.
    As for the complexity of it, my PC's all do it automatically, my phone does it automatically, I need to change the time on my wristwatch, microwave and house clock. This is not a major issue.
    3 DST

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