More than 8% of U.S. workers have commutes of 60 minutes or longer and almost 600,000 full-time workers are mega commuters with journeys of at least 90 minutes and 50 miles. The average one-way daily commute for workers across the U.S. is 25.5 minutes, and one in four commuters leaves their county to work. The data come from the U.S. Census Bureau’s annual American Community Survey, which provides local statistics on a variety of topics for even the smallest communities. Roughly 80% of U.S. workers use a motor vehicle to get to work.
According to Out-of-State and Long Commutes: 2011, 23% of workers with long commutes of 60 minutes or more use public transit, compared with 5% for all workers. Only 61% of workers with long commutes drove to work alone, compared with 80% for all workers who worked outside the home (home workers are only 4% of the total). Rail travel accounted for 12% of workers with long commutes, and other forms of public transportation accounted for 11%.
“The average travel time for workers who commute by public transportation is higher than that of workers who use other modes. For some workers, using transit is a necessity, but others simply choose a longer travel time over sitting in traffic,” said Brian McKenzie, a Census Bureau statistician and author of the brief.
Workers who live in New York State show the highest rate of long commutes at 16%, followed by Maryland and New Jersey at 15%. These states and several others with high rates of long commutes contain or are adjacent to large metropolitan areas.
Based on the 2006-2010 American Community Survey, 586,805 full-time workers are mega commuters — one in 122 of full-time workers. Mega commuters were more likely to be male, older, married, make a higher salary, and have a spouse who does not work. Of the total mega commuters, 75% were male and 25% women. Mega commuters were also more likely to depart for work before 6 a.m. <See the Commuting Flows in Your County.>
Small counties and county equivalents dominate the list of counties with the highest percentage of workers commuting outside the county where they live. Several of these counties are in Virginia or Georgia within close proximity to metro areas such as Washington, D.C., and Atlanta: including Manassas Park, Va. (91%), Echols County, Ga. (85%), Storey County, Ga. (85%), Camden County, N.C. (83%), Long County, Ga. (82%), Carroll County, Miss. (82%), and Falls Church, Va. (82%).
Three counties in the New York City metropolitan area had the highest number of commuters leaving the county where they live for another county. They include workers living in Kings County (Brooklyn), Queens County (Queens) and Bronx County (The Bronx) traveling to New York County (Manhattan) for work.
Workers commuting from Los Angeles County to Orange County, and from Orange County to Los Angeles County in California represented the fourth and fifth largest flows of commuters across county lines, followed by three combinations in the Houston or Dallas metro areas in Texas.