Making daylight saving time permanent, i.e. the “Sunshine Protection Act”? Blech. What we really need is to make standard time permanent; in the spirit of the rather propagandistic moniker springing forward for good goes by these days, I’ll call my solution of falling back for good the “Darkness Protection Act”.
Included in that act would be a redrawing of the time zone boundaries: they’re too far west today, which means large parts of the United States are on permanent daylight saving time right now! How standard time zones work is that instead of using local mean solar time, necessitating you adjust for minutes’ worth of time differences in every town you visit, the world is divided into zones of whole hours, so you only need to change your clock when traveling in one-hour increments. Given 360 degrees of longitude, 24 hours divides the world into 15-degree-wide zones, with time zone boundaries every 15th meridian. This ensures everywhere in the world is within 30 minutes of their local mean solar time.
So practical is standard time that the vast majority of people in Britain synchronized their clocks with London time (a.k.a. Greenwich Mean Time or Greenwich Meridian Time) by the mid to late 19th century, long before civil time changed over. Other countries, including the United States, took longer. The ease of travel brought on by the railroads (yes, mass mobility predates the 20th century) compelled this standardization.
The Status Quo
An elegant concept, standard time is. Unfortunately its implementation has been far from perfect. Below is a map of the time zones currently in use in the United States:
Below is my somewhat artsier rendering of the same information:
They look kinda sorta meridional, right? Wrong! Below is a map of the time zones with the meridional boundaries shown for comparison. Literally every single time zone extends too far west. The only time zone that’s not missing large parts of its eastern range is the Eastern Time Zone, which extends a few miles eastward of its ideal boundary in easternmost Maine. Even then, there have been rumblings in Maine, and across New England, for switching to Atlantic Time, the next zone eastward.
The closest a zone comes to the ideal western boundary is the Mountain-Pacific time zone border, and that’s mostly an artifact of Nevada having switched to Pacific Time long ago in order to coordinate more closely with California.
Worst affected of all, however, is Alaska, which is largely on “Alaska Time”, one hour behind Pacific Time. Which is ideal for Juneau and the Panhandle, but bizarrely extends clear across the entire mainland of the state, swallowing not just one but two meridional time zones westward of it, the effect being that Nome has year-round double daylight saving time, escalating to triple daylight saving time from March to November. Weirdest of all is how the Aleutian Islands have their own time zone but are still two hours off from their meridional time.
Here’s my rendition of the ideal time zones, without the overlap from the existing time zones as on the map above. See those red boundaries? That’s where your time zone borders are supposed to be, Americans!
The Darkness Protection Act’s new Time Zones
Obviously using pure meridians presents some minor practical difficulties. Tampa, for instance, is split into two time zones, as is Oklahoma City, Columbus, and the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. Parts of Phoenix as well. But only minor deviations from the meridians are necessary to keep metropolitan areas whole. Below is a map I made detailing what boundaries I’d tentatively draw in the Darkness Protection Act, hewing to meridians unless they’d break up a metropolitan area. The western border of Utah is close enough to the true boundary to be acceptable in my view, and it conveniently follows state lines across half its track, so I just used that meridian north of Arizona. I also deviated a bit far westward to keep San Antonio in sync with the rest of the “Texas Triangle” of cities.
I also draw whole new time zones for central Alaska, including Anchorage and Fairbanks, one hour behind today’s Alaska Time. Western Alaska gets a new time zone, two hours behind Alaska Time. The Aleutians’ time zone is shifted two hours back, to three hours behind Alaska Time.
Here’s the map with the new zones filled in with the appropriate colors.
Worth noting here is that I propose to push Hawaii’s time zone half an hour back, to a meridian centered near Honolulu; the merididonal time zones divide Hawaii in two, whereas a half-hour time zone includes all of Hawaii in its ideal range. Hawaii is a distinct entity with its own time zone anyway, so a half-hour zone makes sense for them. Indeed, Hawaii at one point had a half-hour zone, before it was changed to what they use today. Newfoundland and India employ half-hour zones for similar reasons.
Here’s my artsy rendition of the time zones under the Darkness Protection Act:
Why can’t something like this be our time zones?
Half-Hour Zones…oh, the Possibilities!
Other possibilities I’ve considered is giving Texas its own time zone halfway between Central and Mountain Time: the central meridian of such a zone runs right next to Dallas, and it includes all of Texas in its ideal range. Oklahoma too might adopt the same zone for similar reasons; the meridian runs right through the middle of Oklahoma City.
There’s also a case for Florida adopting a zone halfway between Eastern and Central Time, as it would be more sensible for their longitude. Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina could also have a highly-accurate time zone that enables closer coordination with each other if they adopted the same time zone. That would leave only a thin strip of the Gulf Coast in a whole-hour time zone, so at that point you might as well partition the South between UTC-5:30 and UTC-6:30 and be done with it.
For this reason I decided employing half-hour zones was unnecessarily complicated, so, excepting Hawaii, I didn’t include any.
Let’s do It!
In my view these are what our time zones should be. The United States Senate should come out of their slumber, where they apparently let the “Sunshine Protection Act” pass without even being aware of it (literally; read the story, it’s as interesting as it is pathetic), summon some courage, and do the right thing: abolish daylight saving time forever and redraw the time zones to where geographic logic says they should be.