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For many Americans, commuting to work is part of their everyday life. In fact, the average worker commuted more than 27.6 minutes to work each way in 2019, according to data from the U.S. Census. However, recent events, most notably the COVID-19 pandemic, have changed the way people are working and how they commute (or don’t commute) to their job.
A 2021 survey from consulting firm McKinsey found that 58% of U.S. workers now have the opportunity to work from home at least one day each week. More than one-third (35%) of workers said they have the option to work from home for the full five-day work week. With more people working from home part-time and full-time, commuting needs have changed dramatically.
Rush hour patterns are changing. More people are relocating to new cities and states. And many workers are able to save money on vehicle-related expenses, like gas and car insurance. In some places, public transportation ridership has increased, as more people opt for the subway or bus to get to the office.
To understand how commuting has changed in recent years, we pulled some commuting statistics to illustrate the current state of commuting in the U.S.
Commuting to work in the U.S.: Facts & statistics
Have you noticed fewer cars on the road during your morning or evening commute? You’re not alone. Data shows that fewer workers are commuting following the COVID-19 pandemic. Here are some interesting findings about commuting in the U.S.:
- In 2019, almost 10% of American workers reported driving at least an hour each way for their daily commute. (U.S. Census)
- In 2006, the average American traveled 25 minutes to their workplace. In 2019, the average commute time increased to 27.6 minutes. That’s about a 10% increase in commuting time in the 14-year period. (U.S. Census)
- Workers with the longest average commute times were the most likely to take public transportation. For instance, data shows that workers who took the bus to work had an average commute of 46.6 minutes, significantly longer than the national average of 27.6 minutes. (U.S. Census)
- Between 2006 and 2019, longer commutes became more common and shorter commutes became less common. The portion of workers who reported having at least a one hour commute increased from 7.9% in 2006 to 9.8% in 2019. (U.S. Census)
- A 2019 report on public transportation found that 7.8 million people, or about 5% of all U.S. workers, relied on public transit to commute to their workplace. (U.S. Census)
- An estimated 2.6% of U.S. workers walked to work in 2019. Fewer workers (less than 1%) commuted to work via bicycle. (U.S. Census)
- More than 46% of workers reported commuting primarily on the bus in 2019. Fewer people (37.7%) said their primary method of commuting was the subway or elevated rail. (U.S. Census)
- Nearly 76% of U.S. workers commuted to work alone in 2019, the lowest rate since 2009. (U.S. Census)
Average commute time by state
Data shows that the average commute time varies between states. New Yorkers have the longest commute, with an average travel time of 33.5 minutes. South Dakotans have the shortest commute, with an average time of 17.3 minutes.
In the table below, you can see the average drive time to work in all 50 states, Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico.
|State||Average commute time|
|New Hampshire||27.4 minutes|
|New Jersey||32 minutes|
|New Mexico||22.7 minutes|
|New York||33.5 minutes|
|North Carolina||24.9 minutes|
|North Dakota||17.6 minutes|
|Puerto Rico||29.1 minutes|
|Rhode Island||25.3 minutes|
|South Carolina||25.1 minutes|
|South Dakota||17.3 minutes|
|Washington D.C.||30.9 minutes|
|West Virginia||26.1 minutes|
Common modes of commuting by state
Most U.S. workers drive to their office, but many workers use public transit and carpool. Here’s a breakdown of how people get to work in all 50 states and Washington D.C.
|State||Public transit (%)||Solo drive to work (%)||Carpool (%)|
How the rise in working from home affects commuting
Commuting statistics show that many Americans are continuing to travel to an office during the work week. However, data also shows a large uptick in the number of employees who are working from home. The shift to remote work during and following the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the commuting landscape, as well as the number of workers who still have a commute.
Data from Pew Research found that six in 10 Americans who say their work can be accomplished from home are working from home at least most of the time. For comparison, only 23% of workers said they telecommuted frequently before the pandemic. Among telecommuters who could have the option to work at a physical office, 76% say they continue to telecommute because they prefer working from home.
Unsurprisingly, many remote workers enjoy the cost savings of working from home. Online career search site FlexJobs surveyed 2,100 people who worked remotely between March and April 2021. Roughly 84% of respondents said the biggest perk of working from home was having no commute, and 75% said the biggest benefit was the ability to save money.
It makes sense why so many remote workers are enjoying more money in their bank accounts by avoiding a commute. Clever Real Estate finds that the average U.S. worker spends $8,466 commuting on an annual basis, which is more than $700 per month. This accounts for the cost of gas, car maintenance, income lost due to commuting, car insurance and more.
If you’ve switched to part-time or full-time remote work, you can potentially save money on car insurance by reporting a lower mileage. Some car insurance companies will offer you a lower premium if you can prove that you drive less than 8,000-10,000 miles per year. It’s a good idea to get new quotes to see if you can qualify for a more affordable rate.
In addition, some infrequent drivers can get cheaper car insurance by enrolling in a pay-per-mile car insurance policy. With pay-per-mile insurance, your car insurance premium is tied to a base rate, and a certain rate for each mile. You pay the premium on a monthly basis that is based on the distance you drive.
Frequently asked questions
According to the American Community Survey (ACS), an estimated 13.9 million employees carpool to work with at least one other person. The data also found that carpoolers had longer average commutes than non-carpoolers. The average solo driver spent 26.4 minutes driving to work each way, whereas the average carpooler spent 28.5 minutes commuting each way.
Data shows that a large percentage of traffic accidents occur during the morning and evening commutes. Specifically, 47% of crashes occur during the weekday between 6 a.m. – 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. – 7 p.m., when most Americans are driving to and from work. Therefore, it can be concluded that car commuters have a higher likelihood of getting into an accident.
Commuting to work has been repeatedly shown to have a negative impact on mental health. A study of commuters in Latin America found that, with every 10 minutes of commuting, people had a 0.5% higher probability of developing depression. In addition, workers who took public transportation to work were found to have a 4.8% lower chance of screening positively for depression than people who drove to work.