Updated November 16, 2015

23 Commute Statistics to Know Before You Go to Work

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Commuting can be a real time buster, especially if you're dealing with morning gridlock or the 5 pm rush. If you're wondering which drivers luck out and spend the least amount of time in the car or when most people are heading out to work each day, here's a look at how the numbers break down.

© Oran Viriyincy (CC BY 2.0) via Flickr

Remember, that chipper attitude you leave the house with may be replaced with one that's a little less pleasant if you're battling heavy traffic or trying to dodge careless drivers. By the time you make it into work, you could be ready to turn around and drive straight back home.

MEASURING THE DAILY COMMUTE

We thought it would be helpful to begin our study with a quick breakdown of some of the most basic facts and figures on commuting in the U.S. Using information from multiple U.S. Census Bureau surveys, we pinned down some numbers on just how many people are commuting, how much time they're spending in transit, and when they're most likely to be on the road.

1. How many people commute each day?
Close to 143 million Americans aged 16 and older commute to work each day. That's about 45% of the population that's on the move at any given time.

2. How long does the average commute take?
Commute times haven't changed much over the last decade or so. It takes workers about 25.4 minutes on average to get where they're going.

3. How many commuters travel for an hour or longer?
While it might put a damper on your day, a 25-minute commute probably seems like a breeze for the 10.8 million workers whose trip lasts an hour or more.

4. How many commuters travel alone?
More than 109 million commuters make their daily trip solo, which is about 76% of all commuting workers total.

5. How many carpool?
Only about 13 million workers carpool, and 10 million of those ride with just one other person. Around 1.8 million travel in groups of three while about 1.3 million carpool with four people or more.

6. What time of day do most commuters leave for work?
Early morning is when the majority of commuters head out the door, with 20 million leaving between 7:00 and 7:29 am. About 17 million depart between 7:30 and 7:59 am while 22 million leave between 8 and 9 am.

7. How many commuters are on the road before 5 am?
The early bird gets the worm and for slightly more than 6 million workers, that means traveling to work between the hours midnight and 5 am.

EXTRA-LONG COMMUTES

While most workers live within 25 miles or so of their job, an unlucky handful have a much longer road to travel. Dubbed "stretch commuters," these are the people who are willing to go 50 miles or more one way just to get to work. We analyzed data from the Department of Transportation's National Household Travel Survey to get an idea of just how much of the workforce is dealing with a grueling commute.

8. How many workers stretch commute?
Each year, an estimated 3.3 million Americans face a daily one-way commute of 50 miles or longer. Combined, they make the trip roughly 329 million times annually.

9. What percentage of commuters travel more than 75 miles one-way?
While 60% of stretch commuters are traveling between 50 and 74 miles to get to work, nearly 20% are trekking between 75 and 99 miles to reach their destination.

10. How many commute more than 100 miles?
Some stretch commuters take even longer to make it into the office or onto the job site each day. Seven percent of workers have a commute of 100 to 124 miles while 6% go anywhere from 125 to 199 miles one-way.

11. How many work 200 miles or more away?
Just under 200,000 Americans, or about 6% of stretch commuters, travel 200 miles or more to get to work. While many drive, approximately 24% choose to fly instead to save time.

12. Do men or women stretch commute more often?
Men are far more likely to make the long haul, accounting for 274 million of annual stretch commute trips. Only about 16% of stretch commuters are women.

13. What occupation has the highest number of stretch commuters?
Stretch commuting is highest in the manufacturing and construction industries, with 44% of workers going the distance. Forty percent of stretch commuters work in professional, managerial or technical jobs while the remaining 16% is divided between those who hold sales or administrative positions.

HOW COMMUTERS GET AROUND

Commuting can put a lot of wear and tear on your personal vehicle, and a decent number of workers are opting to find alternate ways to get work. Drawing on information from the U.S. Census Bureau, we were able to get a clear picture of the different means commuters use to travel.

14. How many commuters drive?
About 86% of commuters drive to work each day in a car, truck or van. The total number of commuters on the road is about 123 million.

15. How many take the train?
Just over 7 million commuters rely on public transportation to get where they're going, and 2.6 million of them choose the subway or an elevated train. An additional 823,000 are making the journey by railroad.

16. How many commuters ride the bus or hail a cab?
Almost 3.8 million commuters opt to take the bus while 161,000 are shelling out a few bucks each day for a cab ride.

17. How many Americans bike to work?
Biking to work has caught on in many larger cities like San Francisco. The total number of cycling commuters tops 880,000 .

18. How many walk?
Surprisingly, a fair number of commuters are using their own two feet to get to work each day. Right around 4 million people choose to walk instead of ride.

COMMUTERS IN THE CITY

Commuter rates and drive times can vary wildly from one city to the next, and some parts of the country experience substantially heavier traffic than others. A closer look at the information we gathered from the U.S. Census Bureau yielded some interesting clues about where workers are commuting least and most often each day.

19. Which city has the most out-of-state commuters?
The nation's capital has the highest out-of-state commuter rate, with more than 70% of the city's workforce residing elsewhere.

20. Which state attracts the most out-of-towners?
New York sees the most traffic from nonresident workers, with more than 556,000 people commuting in from other states.

21. Where are commuters most likely to use public transportation?
The Big Apple makes the list once again, with 30.5% of workers relying on buses, cabs or the subway to get around. The San Francisco-Oakland area had the second highest rate of public transportation use, at 14.6%.

22. Which city has the longest drive time?
People who work in and around New York City are stuck with the longest average commute, clocking in at 34.9 minutes. Washington, D.C., was second, with 34.5 minutes.

23. Which one has the shortest?
You'll have to head out west if you want to dodge heavy traffic. Great Falls, Montana, has the shortest average commute time at just 14.2 minutes .

FINAL WORD

Dealing with bumper-to-bumper traffic on a daily basis is far from anyone's idea of a good time. But, based on some of the numbers we found, you may have it easier than some of your commuting counterparts. If you feel yourself tensing up behind the wheel, just turn up the radio and remember, there's no place like home.

Sources and References
U.S. Department of Transportation
U.S. Census Bureau

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