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Americans Now Spend Over 100 Hours a Year Commuting

More time spent driving to work than taking vacations

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Bumper to bumper traffic
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Dateline: April 2005

At an nationwide average drive-time of about 24.3 minutes, Americans now spend more than 100 hours a year commuting to work, according to the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey. Yes, that's more than the average two weeks of vacation time (80 hours) taken by many workers during a year.

“This annual information on commuters and their work trips and other transportation-related data will help local, regional and state agencies maintain, improve, plan and develop the nation’s transportation systems,” said Census Bureau Director Louis Kincannon in a press release. “American Community Survey data will provide valuable assistance to agencies offering housing, education and other public services as well.”

New York Longest, Montana Shortest Commutes

Based on a ranking of states with the longest average commute-to-work times, the ACS showed that New York (30.4 minutes) and Maryland (30.2 minutes) residents spent the most time traveling to their jobs. New Jersey (28.5 minutes), Illinois (27.0 minutes) and California (26.5 minutes) were also among states with some of the longest one-way commute times. States with some of the lowest average commute times included South Dakota (15.2 minutes), North Dakota (15.4 minutes), Nebraska (16.5 minutes) and Montana (16.9 minutes).

Of the 231 counties with populations of 250,000 or more covered by the ACS, Queens (41.7 minutes), Richmond (41.3 minutes), Bronx (40.8 minutes) and Kings (39.7 minutes) – four of the five counties that comprise New York City – experienced the longest average commute-to-work times. Additionally, workers living in Prince William County, Va. (36.4 minutes), and Prince George’s County, Md. (35.5 minutes), – suburban counties located within the Washington, D.C. metro area – also faced some of the longest commutes.

In a ranking of large cities (with populations of 250,000 or more), New York (38.3 minutes), Chicago (33.2 minutes), Newark, N.J. (31.5 minutes), Riverside, Calif. (31.2 minutes), Philadelphia (29.4 minutes), and Los Angeles (29.0 minutes) had among the nation’s highest average commute times. Among the 10 cities with the highest average commuting times, New York and Baltimore lay claim to having the highest percentage of people with “extreme” commutes; 5.6 percent of their commuters spent 90 or more minutes getting to work. People with extreme commutes were also heavily concentrated in Newark, N.J. (5.2 percent), Riverside, Calif. (5.0 percent), Los Angeles (3.0 percent), Philadelphia (2.9 percent), and Chicago (2.5 percent). Nationally, just 2.0 percent of workers faced extreme commutes to their jobs.

In contrast, workers in several cities are fortunate enough to experience relatively short commute times, including Corpus Christi, Texas (16.1 minutes), Wichita, Kan. (16.3 minutes), Tulsa, Okla. (17.1 minutes), and Omaha, Neb. (17.3 minutes).

Other highlights:

  • Chicago; Riverside, Calif.; and Los Angeles were the only cities among those with the highest average travel times to work that are not located on the East Coast.

  • Among the 10 counties with the highest average commuting times, the highest percentages of extreme commuters were found in the New York City metro area: Richmond, N.Y. (11.8 percent), Orange, N.Y. (10.0 percent), Queens, N.Y. (7.1 percent), Bronx, N.Y. (6.9 percent), Nassau, N.Y., (6.6 percent), and Kings, N.Y. (5.0).

  • Among the 10 states with the highest average commuting times, the highest percentages of their workers commuting 90 or more minutes to their job were found in New York (4.3 percent), New Jersey (4.0 percent) and Maryland (3.2 percent).

    Source: U.S. Census Bureau

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