An interesting article at Freakonomics blog about American attitudes towards commute times. Some research done by scholars at U.C. Davis discovers that people prefer a commute time, as defined as the trip between home and work, of greater than zero.
Contemporary lifestyles, i.e. for the past hundred years or so, have reinforced the distinction between home-place and work-place. Distance can reinforce this separation in a positive way. Architects have sometimes focused on the "third place" which constitutes spaces that are distinct and separate from work and home. These third places can take the form of churches, social clubs, bars, gyms, schools and brothels. The specific activity at the third place can be banal or profound, as its power lies in its status as a refuge or retreat from home and work. This research on commute time demonstrates that the time and place spent in a vehicle is a potent and common third place that is probably more prevalent than the common architectural areas that I listed above.
The American road story, and travel stories that reach back into antiquity, point to the powerful effect of movement on our little minds. The space of change is a place that we desire--in some amount.