Average commute times for your city, courtesy of the Census Bureau

The Census Bureau this week released results from its latest community surveys taken from 2006 to 2008. The survey includes a wealth of data about people’s commutes in Los Angeles County.

Here, for example, is a spreadsheet from the Census Bureau showing the average one-way commute times for people living in more than 300 cities in California. Note: the commute times exclude those who work at home.

Here’s another neat chart from the Bureau’s website that breaks down the number of survey respondents in L.A. County and their average commute times:

TIME            # OF COMMUTERS
< than 10 minutes     375,198
10 to 14 minutes        492,998
15 to 19 minutes        588,865
20 to 24 minutes       605,047
25 to 29 minutes       230,664
30 to 34 minutes       729,909
35 to 44 minutes       313,789
45 to 59 minutes       392,334
60+ minutes              517,657

It’s hardly a bell curve. Commuting times are all over the place and more than half-a-million people each day are commuting more than 60 minutes each way.

The average commute time for Los Angeles residents was 29.5 minutes – far below the average time for New York City (39.4 minutes) and Chicago (34.1 minutes), both of which are very transit-rich cities. The average commuting time in Los Angeles in 2000 was 29.2 minutes, so there’s been a slight uptick over the past decade. The national average for the 2006 to ’08 time period was 25.3 minutes.

And how are people getting to work? In Los Angeles in the latest community surveys, 67.1% drove alone, 11.2% took public transit, 11.1% carpooled, 3.5% walked, 2.2% got there by “other means” (bikes, etc.) and 4.8% worked at home.

Comparing those numbers to the 2000 Census is a mixed bag. In 2000, 10.2% took mass transit — so the numbers have gone up. Also in 2000, 65.7% of commuters drove alone. So those numbers, too, have risen — and I don’t think there’s anyone who would argue that what our crowded freeways need are more people driving alone to work.

When I worked at the newspaper last year I was interested to see if there were patterns in the average commute times across So Cal. So I took the average commute times from the 2000 Census and made this color-coded Google map that basically shows the obvious: cities with the longest commutes tend to be the ones on the outside of the region.

What does all this mean in the grand scheme of things? My view is this: While the L.A. metro area certainly has epic traffic, we often forget that many people who live here have very normal commutes by American standards.

And that, I’ve always thought, is the problem. If everyone had horrific commutes, there would probably be more of a sense of outrage over traffic.

If you want to see more detailed information from the Census Bureau’s community surveys about commutes in your city, click here and type in the name of your city. When you get the data results, click the “show more” button on economic characteristics to see more detailed commute data.

1 reply

  1. […] Originally Posted by Mach50 I bet the average Irvine dweller does spend 2-3 hours in their car daily, I am talking a summation of all time in the car to work and after work. Not really even close considering stats on commute times. All surburbs are not the same. And Irvine is not Riverside. Article 2009 "Palm Springs and Indio in the Coachella Valley posted some of the shortest commutes in Southern California, about 20 minutes. But not far behind were some Orange County suburbs: Costa Mesa (22.3), Tustin (22.3) and Irvine (22.5)." A 22 min Irvine commute to work is very pretty. Walking cities like San Francisco was 29.2. New York and Chicago were in the 30s. not to say that suburban cities have better commutes than urbanites. But how long you spend commuting is a condition caused by your choices (or lack of choices) in personal life, but not a condition caused by urbanity or lack of it. Link […]

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