Economy

People in This Town Have a 6-Minute Commute

City and town highways across the country were clogged with commuters for decades. In many towns roads, some built before World War II, could not handle the traffic volume that increased as populations burgeoned. That changed as COVID-19 spread across the United States, starting in early 2020. Even roads in New York City had little traffic for several weeks. Air pollution dropped as vehicle volume on roads almost disappeared.

The brief time when the amount of traffic fell has ended, although some people will never return to their office. This means that traffic jams and long commuting times are back. Some cities never had traffic jams. In these places, commute times could be measured as just a few minutes.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the average commute time in the United States is 26.9 minutes. For those who travel to and from work every Monday through Friday, this translates to about 4.5 hours per week, or nearly 10 days a year.

Of course, commute times vary from person to person, but in some parts of the country, workers who are still commuting tend to have far less travel time than others. Using census data, 24/7 Wall St. has identified the town with the shortest commute.

Most of the towns we considered are in the west, including nine in Alaska alone. In every town we examined, the share of commuters using public transit is below the 4.6% national average. In most cases, public transportation is less direct than simply driving from door to door, adding to overall commute time.

The town with the shortest commuting time is Lakeview, Oregon. Here are the details:

  • Average commute time: 6.0 minutes
  • Share of commuters driving alone: 67.8% (834th lowest)
  • Share of commuters carpooling: 8.9% (3,667th highest)
  • Share of commuters using public transit: 0.2% (tied for 3,540th lowest)

Methodology: To determine the town with the shortest commute, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed five-year estimates of average commute times from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2020 American Community Survey (ACS). Towns were ranked based on their average commute time. To break ties, we used the share of workers with a commute of 15 minutes or less.

We used census “place” geographies, a category that includes incorporated legal entities and census-designated statistical entities. We defined towns based on population thresholds, having at least 1,000 people and less than 25,000 people.

Towns were excluded if average commute time estimates were not available in the 2020 ACS, if there were fewer than 1,000 workers 16 years and over who did not work from home or if the sampling error associated with a town’s data was deemed too high.

The sampling error was defined as too high if the coefficient of variation (a statistical assessment of how reliable an estimate is) for a town’s average commute time was above 15% and greater than two standard deviations above the mean coefficient of variation for all towns’ average commute times. We similarly excluded towns that had a sampling error too high for their population, using the same definition.


Click here to see the 50 towns where commuting takes 10 minutes or less.

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