America's commuting habits are wrapped around the car, but will vehicles remain such a popular way to get to work in the face of continued high gas prices?
Commuting takes longest for workers in the New York Metropolitan Area, who have the dubious distinction of spending the most time traveleing to their jobs, while those in Great Falls, MT, enjoy the shortest trip to work.
New York-area workers spend an average of 34.6 minutes commuting, while their counterparts in Great Falls take about 14 minutes to get to work, according to a report released yesterday by the U.S. Census Bureau. The study, “Commuting in the United States: 2009,” is based on the latest available data and is intended to guide public policy decisions on road and transportation improvements.
The average American commute is a little more than 25 minutes, but slightly more than 2 percent of workers took 90 minutes or more to get to work, the Census Bureau said.
The report also showed that the car culture continues to dominate with more than 86 percent of Americans driving a car, truck or van to work. Most of the drivers go it alone in their own vehicle.
“The private automobile’s dominance among travel modes used for the commute represents a long-standing pattern,” said the report, which noted that the number of private workers who commuted by private car has increased continuously between 1960 and 2009, from about 41 million vehicles to about 120 million vehicles, respectively.
The data does not reflect changes made in response to a spike in gas prices last spring. In a July survey asking how rising gas prices have changed driving and spending habits, 8 percent of employees said they have altered commuting habits by carpooling, taking public transportation or telecommuting whenever possible, reported the employee-assistance firm ComPysch.
“The continued climb of fuel costs has caused employees to rethink their commute as well as their household expenditures,” said Dr. Richard A. Chaifetz, chairman and CEO of ComPysch.
Workers who live in the suburbs have a stronger relationship with their cars than their urban counterparts. Suburbanites drive to work alone at a rate of 81.5 percent, compared with 72.1 percent of workers who live in a city, the Census Bureau reported.
Renters, at 9.9 percent, are more than three times as likely as home owners to commute via public transportation, while students, military personnel and others living in group housing are much more likely to walk to work. Workers who live in a large city are more likely to walk and, at 10.9 percent, are the biggest users of public transportation. Workers in the New York area are the most likely to be commuting by public transportation (30.5 percent), followed by those in the San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont corridor (14.6 percent) and the Washington, DC, area (14.1 percent).
Communities with the highest concentration of people commuting by bike or foot, such as Ithaca, NY, where more than 15 percent of employees walk to work, or Corvallis, OR, where 9.3 percent of employees bike to work, tend to be smaller communities of less than 500,000 people. The report noted, “Several were also home to at least one college ofr university and had high proportions of college-aged students.”
Donald Liebenson writes news and features for Millionaire Corner. He has been published in the Chicago Tribune, The Chicago Sun-Times, The Los Angeles Times, Fiscal Times, Entertainment Weekly, Huffington Post, and other outlets. He has also served as a marketing writer for Chicago-based Questar Entertainment and distributor Baker & Taylor.
A graduate of the University of Southern California, he is married with a college-age son. He also writes extensively about entertainment.