Yes, Your Commute Really Is Getting Longer

It’s not your imagination. Your daily ordeal getting to work is taking longer.

New data from the Census Bureau this month shows that the time Americans spend commuting keeps on rising. In 2016, it took an average 26.1 minutes, nearly a minute more than in 2010. (The Census calculates commute times in minutes and decimals rather than minutes and seconds.)

Most of those commutes are spent in the car. Census data show that more than 85% of workers drive or carpool to their job, a figure that hasn’t changed much in recent years. Only about 5% took public transit, 4.6% worked from home, 2.8% walked and 0.6% rode a bike. Commute times flattened out during and after the recession but have been shooting up since 2013 as the economy has recovered. More people with jobs means more drivers on the road, which means more traffic. That helps explain why Americans have been racking up more miles since around 2013, according to Transportation Department data.

Those long commutes could explain why Americans across the political spectrum overwhelmingly support President Donald Trump’s proposal for a $1 trillion infrastructure program. So far, though, Mr. Trump has shown more interest in health care and tax cuts than infrastructure.

For the fourth straight year, East Stroudsburg, Pa., won the dubious honor of having the longest average commute of all metropolitan areas, clocking in at 38.6 minutes of travel time to work. The East Stroudsburg region, population 166,098, sits roughly 75 miles from New York City and about 50 miles from the Pennsylvania cities of Scranton and Wilkes-Barre.

New York, Washington, D.C., San Francisco and Riverside, Calif., rounded out the top five metro areas with the longest commutes.

Rapidly-growing areas have also seen their commute times increase substantially over the past few years. In San Francisco, commuters spend 3.4 minutes longer getting to work than they did in 2010. In San Jose, Calif., they average an extra 2.9 minutes. Elizabethtown, Ky., and Anniston, Ala., have also seen surprising increases in commute times. Elizabethtown is about 45 miles from Louisville and Anniston is about 60 miles from Birmingham. [wsj-responsive-sandbox id = "0" ] RELATED NYC Should Ditch 24/7 Subway Service, Group Says (Nov. 30) Attention, N.Y. Metro-Area Residents: Tips for a Smarter Commute (Nov. 20) As Bicycling Gains Popularity, Safety Concerns Rise (Oct. 11) America’s Buses Lose Riders, ImpreilingTheir Future (Aug. 12)      

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