skip to main content

→ Top Stories:
Clean Power plan
Safe Chemicals

Deron Lovaas’s Blog

More on Commuting in America

Deron Lovaas

Posted March 7, 2013

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Share | | |

The Census Bureau is working through the latest American Community Survey, and this week my colleague Rob Perks covered some of what's been released regarding that remarkably large subset of commuters who have super-long trips to work. Before analyzing and discussing this more, it's worth keeping in mind that commuting is just 27.7 percent of our daily travel, according to another survey tool (the National Household Travel Survey). This has dropped gradually since 1969, when it was about 33.7 percent. So while commuting matters a great deal, the majority of our daily travel is for other purposes.

Back to those 10.8 million Americans who travel an hour or more to work each way. Where are they? I used data from surveys from 2006-2011 available courtesy of public radio station WNYC to rank the 42 counties with zip codes where the average commute is an hour or more:


As a Marylander, I see some familiar counties and notice that neighboring West Virginia not only has the bottom as well as several other spots but also the distinction of a county appearing more than once (meaning that the county spans more than one zip and both rank near the bottom).

Even more cool is a map WNYC staff put together, which is really impressive and worth exploring:

Just scroll over it and you can check out average commute times for counties across the U.S., and tighten the lens to take a closer look at zips in your metro region, town or county.

Rob and I will doubtless be writing more about these survey tools, as I know other bloggers will too.

And to bookend this short entry, let's look at those of us who have the shortest commute, from one room to another in our house (I'm sitting in my home office right now, in fact). There's been a 46 percent jump in the number of people who work from home at least one day a week since 1997, meaning 13.4 million now opt to telework regularly. These workers are diverse in age, education and location, although they tend to have a bachelor's degree or higher and live out west. Census has developed a terrific infographic describing the characteristics of this growing pool of workers here (pdf).

Share | | |


WynneMar 7 2013 09:08 PM

I scrolled over the zip for my area, and the actual commute time is just about double what this chart showed. I use public transit to get to work when I'm not carpooling with others. I don't have a degree but I do work at a university. Go figure. Being from Los Angeles, however, I hope that my native city can get its public transit act together. It's ridiculous that the second most populous city in the country has the worst "public transit." The bus "system" is a joke and metro rail doesn't serve the working public. I.e., we have no public transit. They should take a page out of BART's book for how to build a truly functional and sensible public transit system.

Comments are closed for this post.


Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit

Feeds: Deron Lovaas’s blog

Feeds: Stay Plugged In