How much do Americans dislike commuting? After work, child care and household chores, it’s their least favorite activity.
They dislike it so much that nearly a quarter of workers have quit a job because of the travel time involved, according to a survey by consulting firm Robert Half. If a commuter is forced to travel an extra 20 minutes to work, they are as unhappy as if they received a 19 percent reduction in salary, according to another study by the University of the West of England. Commuting negatively affects health and fatigue levels, marital stability and is linked to a greater risk of chronic back and neck pain.
So why do so many Americans engage in such an unhealthy and unpopular activity?
Modern commuting patterns are the result of what Richard Florida, editor of CityLab, a media project examining issues facing modern cities, calls “a new urban crisis.” Affordable housing is often outside the major urban areas where jobs are, and so people must often live a long way from where they work. This disparity has given rise to longer travel times and the phenomenon of “supercommuters” who travel 90 minutes or more each way, often across state lines for work, or even fly from one state to another. The average commute time in the U.S., according to the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey, is 26.9 minutes.
Urban areas usually have better public transit options than rural ones, so city commuters can often use public transit while people in small cities, towns or rural areas are forced to rely on cars. Low gasoline prices may also be encouraging more people to drive more to work alone, causing more congestion. More single cars on the road and an aging national infrastructure mean more traffic congestion and longer commute times.
The U.S. Census Bureau recently released state-by-state data on average commuting times. We’ve listed the mean commute times, state by state (including Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico) and in order from shortest to longest commute times, and we took a look at some of the factors that may influence commute times in different states.