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600,000 U.S. workers spend three hours a day commuting: study

Posting in Transportation

There's been quite a flap about Yahoo's impending ban on telecommuting, and corporate togetherness aside, the stress of long commutes needs to be considered. Yahoo is based in Sunnyvale, California -- the heart of Silicon Valley, famous for outrageous real estate prices. As a result, the highways in and out of the valley are choked with commuters who were forced to settle long distances from work, where home prices are more affordable.

At least it's comfortable: a higher proportion of long-distance commuters use the rails. Photo credit: Joe McKendrick

Yahoo's management may want to consider the fact that the Bay Area leads in the percentage of "mega-commuters," identified by the U.S. Census Bureau as daily commuters who either travel more than 90 minutes or 50 miles each way to get to their jobs. Two percent of Bay Area commuters travel such distances.

In a new report, the Census Bureau says nearly 600,000 full-time workers within the U.S. have such lengthy daily commutes. For slightly more tolerable commutes -- 60 minutes or less each way -- the total was eight percent -- or 2.2 million -- of U.S. workers.

The average one-way daily commute for workers across the country is 25.5 minutes, and one in four commuters leave their county to work.

The study also shows that 23 percent of workers with long commutes (60 minutes or more) use public transit, compared with five percent for all workers. Only 61 percent of workers with long commutes drove to work alone, compared with 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, the Census Bureau says.  Rail travel accounted for 12 percent of workers with long commutes, and other forms of public transportation accounted for 11 percent.

Workers who live in New York state show the highest rate of long commutes (again, 60 minutes) at 16 percent, followed by Maryland and New Jersey at 15 percent each. These states and several others with high rates of long commutes contain or are adjacent to large metropolitan areas.

Mega-commuters (traveling 90 minutes each way) were more likely to be male, older, married, make a higher salary, and have a spouse who does not work. Of the total mega commutes, 75 percent were male and 25 percent women. Mega-commuters were also more likely to depart for work before 6 a.m. Metro areas with large populations tend to attract large flows of mega commuters. the Census Bureau points out.

U.S. Metro Areas With Highest Percentage of "Mega-Commuters"

(Traveling 90 minutes or more each way to work each day)

San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont, CA
2.06%
New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island, NY-NJ-PA 1.90%
Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV 1.89%
Trenton-Ewing NJ Metropolitan Statistical Area 1.40%
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana, CA
1.25%
Boston-Cambridge-Quincy, MA-NH 1.17%
Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta, GA
0.90%
Chicago-Joliet-Naperville, IL-IN-WI
0.81%
Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-MD
0.80%
Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA
0.57%
Source: U.S. Census Bureau

— By on March 15, 2013, 7:33 AM PST

Joe McKendrick

Contributing Editor

Joe McKendrick is an independent analyst who tracks the impact of information technology on management and markets. He is a co-author of the SOA Manifesto and has written for Forbes, ZDNet and Database Trends & Applications. He holds a degree from Temple University. He is based in Pennsylvania. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure