About 8 percent of U.S. workers—almost 11 million people—had commutes of 60 minutes or longer, and nearly 600,000 full-time workers had “mega-commutes” of at least 90 minutes and 50 miles in 2011, far exceeding the average one-way daily commute of about 25 minutes, according to a the U.S. Census Bureau’s annual American Community Survey (ACS), released on March 5.
Of those long and mega-commuters, 23 percent took public transportation compared with 5.3 percent for all workers, and about 61 percent of workers with long commutes drove to work alone, compared with nearly 80 percent for all workers who worked outside the home.
“The average travel time for workers who commute by public transportation is higher than that of workers who use other modes,” said Brian McKenzie, a Census Bureau statistician and author of the report. “For some workers, using transit is a necessity, but others simply choose a longer travel time over sitting in traffic.”
Rail travel accounted for about 12 percent of workers with long commutes; other forms of public transportation accounted for about 11 percent.
Long and mega-commuters are primarily concentrated around large cities—New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington, DC, and New Orleans. Workers in New York State show the highest rate of long commutes at about 16 percent, followed by Maryland and New Jersey at nearly 15 percent each.
Based on the 2006-2010 ACS, about 587,000 full-time workers are mega commuters, or one in 122 full-time workers. Mega commuters were more likely to be male, older, married, earn a higher salary, have a spouse who does not work, and to depart for work before 6 a.m.
The ACS is an ongoing survey conducted annually by the U.S. Census Bureau that captures changes in the socioeconomic, housing, and demographic characteristics of communities across the United States and Puerto Rico. The ACS travel-related questions focus solely on commuting and do not ask about leisure travel or other non-work trips. Respondents answer questions about where they live, where they work, what time they leave home for work, the means of transportation used to get there, the number of workers riding in a car, truck, or van, and how long, in minutes, it takes to travel to work, among others.
The ACS provides a wide range of important statistics about people and housing for every community across the nation. The results are used by individuals ranging from town and city planners to transportation officials to retailers and homebuilders. The survey is the only source of local estimates for most of the 40 topics it covers, including commuting, for even the smallest communities.
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