Average American commute? 25.1 minutes

Zachary Roth
Senior National Affairs Reporter
The Lookout

How long does it take you to get to work in the morning? If the answer is more than 25.1 minutes, then you've got a longer commute than the average American.

That's one finding from a new Census Bureau survey on commuting (pdf), based on data from 2009. The survey also found that the New York City metro area has the longest average commute time--perhaps not surprisingly, given its size--at 34.6 minutes.

The Big Apple region also has the highest share of workers who use public transportation: 30.5 percent. But the survey makes it clear that commuting is still dominated by car travel. Nationwide, 86 percent of Americans over 16 get to work by car, truck or van. And around 75 percent drive alone.

You might expect that commute times for 2009 would have risen since 2000, since workers might be more likely to put up with a longer commute when jobs are scarce. But in fact, commute times have dropped slightly, the study shows. The big increase occurred between 1990 and 2000, when the average time spiked from just over 22 minutes to around 25.5. We don't know exactly why that it is, but it might be due in part to increased traffic as the economy boomed in the 1990s.

Some other striking findings from the Census Bureau report:

• Perhaps because men are more likely to take jobs that are further away, it takes them significantly longer than it takes women to get to work--26.7 minutes, compared to 23.4 minutes.

• Not surprisingly, men also tend to leave the house earlier. And almost 40 percent of men are out the door before 7 am, while 25 percent of women are.

• Hispanics were much more likely than others to carpool. 16.4 percent of them did so, compared with a 9.5 percent rate for non-Hispanics.

• Foreign-born workers used public transportation at a rate of 10.8 percent, while native-born workers did so at just a 4.1 percent rate.

You can read the whole fascinating report here (pdf).