Weary of the Dark, These Two New England States Want a Time Zone Change

October 25, 2017, 8:26 PM UTC

Most Americans will turn their clocks back for daylight savings on Nov. 5, leading to long stretches of afternoon darkness that can increase a sense of winter gloom.

The annual ritual also gives rise to grumblings, especially in New England where lawmakers are proposing a dramatic solution: Ditching the Eastern Time Zone in favor of the Atlantic one, which would buy an extra hour of light in the afternoon.

As the Wall Street Journal reports, a movement is afoot in Maine and Massachusetts to move the region’s clock ahead an hour for good:

Winter darkness comes early in New England, which sits along the edge of the Eastern Time Zone, and preserving more late-afternoon sunshine could yield some health and economic benefits [a report said]…

Massachusetts “could make a data-driven case for moving to the Atlantic Time Zone year-round.” …

“Why do we keep doing this to ourselves?” said Donna Bailey, a Democratic state representative in Maine who this year sponsored a failed bill to shift to Atlantic Time. The sun sets over parts of her state before 4:00 p.m. after the clocks turn back.

Portland Head Lighthouse In Maine, USA
Portland Head Lighthouse In Maine, USA
Getty Images

New England Could Join the Atlantic Time Zone

If New England can pull of the change, residents would be like their neighbors in the Canadian provinces of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, which are parts of the Atlantic Time Zone, as are countries like Bermuda and the Dominican Republic.

It would also mean more afternoon light (though less morning light): As it stands, the sun goes down in places like Bangor, Me. over an hour earlier than some others in the sprawling Easter Time Zone such as Indianapolis.

Or We Could All Just Ditch Daylight Savings Time

The Journal report notes, however, the chances of the time zone change may be a long shot, in part because the Massachusetts plan depends on other New England states following suit. Meanwhile, lawmakers have tried and failed in the past to change the law for more afternoon daylight.

There’s also another option for states, which is to opt out of daylight savings altogether. That is how it works in most parts of Arizona and Hawaii, and in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan.

Contrary to a popular misconception, daylight savings has nothing to do with farming—especially as cattle and other farm animals don’t care what time it is (which is why agrarian Saskatchewan doesn’t have it).

Instead, daylight savings time was introduced as an energy savings mechanism during World War I. The idea was to maximize the hours of natural light for workers in offices and factories—a justification that’s considerably less pressing today.