Commute Time to Work Increasing

The drive to work is getting longer. According to the American Community Survey, which is an annual survey produced by the Census, more than 86 percent of people commute by car and 76 percent commute alone. Four percent of people work at home and two percent commute by motorcycle, bicycle, or taxicab. The commute to work has been increasing since the Census Bureau first started looking at the issue. In 1980, the average commute was 21.8 minutes, in 1990 it was 22.4 minutes, in 2000 it was 25.4 minutes, and in 2010 it was 25.7 minutes. Maryland residents now have the longest commute in the nation at 31.8 minutes, eclipsing New York at 31.3 minutes and New Jersey at 30.3 minutes.

Not coincidentally, Maryland is investing much more heavily in its transit than its road network. Diverting money away from potential road improvements likely makes the situation worse.

This survey shows the very low percentage of people who actually use transit. While 10% carpool and 4% work at home, only two percent use transit. Even though since 1980 we have been spending a lot more than two percent of transportation funding on transit. Indeed, some cities spend more than 50% of transportation funds on transit. Meanwhile, demand for highways clearly remains dominant, but there are demand responsive methods of improving highways such as converting HOV lanes to HOT lanes that decrease congestion without increasing the size of the highway. Many of these improvements are self-financing.

The Reason Foundation has written extensively on this issue including Taxpayer Friendly Solutions to America’s Transportation Challenges and The Year 2010 in Toll Roads, HOT Lanes, and Infrastructure Finance