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.