The COVID-19 pandemic completely changed traffic patterns in cities across the country. Millions of people who had commuted to work could not do so. The virus made companies shutter their offices, and in some cases, this lasted for months. A portion of these closed their offices permanently, and their employees will continue to work remotely.
The drop-off in commuting had several effects. Roads were less crowded. Some GDP companies even posted figures of the percentage drop from pre-COVID years. Another fascinating effect that was air pollution dropped in many cities. Residents could see the skies more clearly than was possible for decades.
By 2021, as the spread of the virus dropped in some parts of the country, and offices reopened, traffic patterns started to go back to levels of 2019 and before. It has been possible to track the change. Of course, commute times vary from city to city, but in some parts of the country, workers are far more likely to have longer commutes than in others. Using census data, 24/7 Wall St. identified the American town with the longest commutes.
Among the towns we considered, average commute times range from about 46 minutes up to over 67 minutes. Over the course of a week, these commute times add up, from nearly eight hours up to over 11 – and in some cases, more than three weeks over the course of a year for those who commute every Monday through Friday.
Several towns we looked at, including Chappaqua, New York and Greenville in Westchester County, New York, have reliable public transportation systems into Manhattan, and the share of workers commuting with public transit far exceeds the 4.6% national average. In most cases, public transportation is less direct than simply driving from door to door, adding to the overall commute time.
Other towns we considered are more isolated, located beyond the outskirts of the nearest major city. In many of these places, the share of commuters driving themselves to work far exceeds the 74.9% national average.
The town with the longest commute in America is Pine Ridge, Pennsylvania. Here are the details:
> Avg. commute time (minutes): 67.3
> Share of commuters driving alone: 72.8% — 1,627th lowest of 8,238 towns
> Share of commuters carpooling: 16.5% — 565th highest of 8,238 towns
> Share of commuters using public transit: 8.7% — 565th highest of 8,238 towns (tied)
Methodology: To determine the town with the longest commute, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed five-year estimates of average commute times from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2020 American Community Survey.
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 CV for all towns’ average commute times. We similarly excluded towns that had a sampling error too high for their population, using the same definition.
Towns were ranked based on their average commute time. To break ties, we used the share of workers with a commute of 45 minutes or longer.
Additional information on the share of commuters driving alone, carpooling, and using public transit are also five-year estimates from the 2020 ACS.
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