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U.S. Commute Time on the Rise

March 31, 2005

U.S. Commute Time on the Rise
March 31, 2005 – During the course of one year, do you spend more time driving to work than on vacation? According to a recent Census Bureau survey, commuting time is going up in the United States, and so is the number of people who travel 90 minutes or more to work each way.

The average one-way commute took 24.3 minutes in 2003, two minutes more than it did in 1990, according to the survey. That adds up to more than 100 hours each year, exceeding the average two weeks of vacation most U.S. workers have annually.

Nationally, only two percent of workers log 90-minute one-way commuting times, but their numbers are growing, according to the survey.

New York City and Baltimore, Md., have the greatest proportion of long-distance commuters, with 5.6 percent of their commuters spending 90 minutes or more getting to work. Riverside, Calif., is third at five percent, and Los Angeles and Philadelphia round out the top five with three percent and 2.9 percent, respectively.

Workers in New York City spent the longest time traveling to work on average. At 38 minutes, their commute time is some nine minutes longer than their counterparts in Los Angeles. Commuters in Chicago were second at 33 minutes.

The Census Bureau says the shortest commutes, 17 minutes or less, were in Corpus Christi, Texas; Wichita, Kan.; and Tulsa, Okla.

The survey also showed that nationally, less than five percent of commuters took public transportation. When they did, it often took a few minutes longer to get to work than for those who drove. About 77 percent of commuters drive alone, compared with 73 percent in 2000.

The census figures are based on the bureau’s annual American Community Survey, which surveyed 800,000 households in 2003, including commuters 16 years and older. Information is used in deciding where to build new roads and new schools, U.S. Census Bureau Director Louis Kincannon said.

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