August 16, 2019
By Paul Bubny
The 1993 movie “Falling Down” begins with a heavily perspiring Michael Douglas behind the wheel of a car that just isn’t moving, surrounded by what appears to be thousands of other cars that just aren’t moving, as drivers endure yet another endless session of Los Angeles freeway gridlock. The reality, though, is that by comparison to some other major metro areas, L.A. isn’t so bad when it comes to commuting time.
Granted, you can expect to spend an average of 63.6 minutes per day commuting in L.A., according to a CommercialCafe study. However, that compares favorably to San Francisco, where the average is 67.6 minutes/day, and especially to New York, where commuters need to set aside 83.6 minutes.
Additionally, L.A. ranks 10th out of 10 cities in terms of increases in commuting time between 2008 and 2017, CommercialCafe says. The 4.2-minute increase in commuting time since 2008 translates into an additional 18.2 hours per year.
The metro with the dubious distinction of ranking first? San Jose. Commuters there spend nearly two whole additional days per year enduring their commutes. New York’s increase of 20.8 hours per year puts it sixth on the list. In between San Jose and New York are three other California cities (San Francisco, San Diego and Sacramento) and one in Washington State (third-ranked Seattle, where the annualized increase is 31.2 hours).
Moving from measuring hours into days spent commuting, New York tops the ranking with an average of 15.1 days per year. Chicago is only slightly better with cumulative commuting time of 12.6 days, thanks to the second-longest average commute among major metros (69.8 minutes). Residents of San Jose get off relatively lightly with 11.3 days lost to commuting each year.
“According to U.S. Census data, 96% of the employed population commuted to work in 2008, spending an average of 51 minutes on the route (both ways),” CommercialCafe reports. “By 2017, the percentage of commuters had dropped 1% as more remote and freelancing jobs started popping up.
“The amount of time spent commuting also changed in every city in the past decade, mostly due to shifts in the economy, population and job market,” according to CommercialCafe. In a few metro areas, such as Detroit, Memphis and Denver, commuting times actually decreased over the decade.
Memphis is also among the cities with the shortest commutes. The average for the one-time home of Elvis Presley and current home of FedEx is 43 minutes, or slightly more than half the daily total for New York.
In a separate study, Apartment List found that the ranks of “super commuters”—those whose daily commutes total 90 minutes or more in each direction—grew by 32% between 2005 and 2017.
“Beyond the super commuters who drive from distant exurbs to work in the downtown offices of pricey superstar cities, we also see high rates of super commuting in some counties that are much closer to the urban core,” according to Apartment List.
Those counties include New York State’s Richmond County, better known as Staten Island. Although Staten Islanders commuting to and from Manhattan are in fact traveling within the same city, they constitute the nation’s fifth highest super commuter share at 14.3%. “These commuters are likely getting to work via time-consuming public transit options, in which a single trip might include traveling by bus, ferry, subway and foot,” according to Apartment List.
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