The 5 best US cities to commute from — and the 5 worst

Palmdale, California, commuters see the worst of Los Angeles’ notoriously difficult traffic. Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

  • The average commute for an American worker is 26 minutes each way, according to the US Census Bureau.
  • Researchers have found that time added to an existing commute demonstrably reduces a person’s satisfaction with their job and enjoyment of leisure time off the clock
  • Here are the five American cities where residents have the shortest average commutes– and the five with the longest – according to a US Census Bureau survey.

In the past 35 years, the average commute time for the American worker has increased from 21.7 minutes in each direction to about 26 minutes, according to the US Census Bureau. That difference of 4.3 minutes may sound trivial, but it’s anything but.

Not only do those 4.3 minutes each way mean a day and a half extra spent in transit each year (or 34.5 hours, using a 50-week, five-day schedule as the base line), but according to a study conducted by researchers with the University of the West of England, time added to a commute translates to poorer performance, less satisfaction with work, and more stress at home.

And not only are commutes steadily growing longer for everyone, but more people are joining the ranks of the super commuters each year. According to the US Census Bureau, in 2017, 8.9% of American workers spent more than an hour travelling in each direction during their daily commute. That’s more than 10 hours weekly spent commuting, two hours longer than the standard workday itself.

On the other hand, some of us are still enjoying blissfully short trips between work and home. If you want to minimise your commute, the key seems to be to settle in a city isolated from other major metropolitan areas. (Or to work from home.)

The online life insurance agency Haven Life released a distillation of the US Census Bureau’s 2017 American Community Survey that factored in average round-trip commute, the ratio of weekly working hours versus commuting hours, the percentage of Americans commuting two or more hours per day, and the most common transportation methods to determine which cities have the best and worst commutes in America. Here’s what they found out.

The five US cities with the shortest commutes

Lubbock, Texas. Redraiderengineer/Wikimedia Commons

5. Eugene, Oregon

Eugene, Oregon. Flickr/Shad Bolling

Average round trip: 36.4 minutes (or 18.2 minutes each way)

One in seven workers in Eugene walk or bike to work, according to the US Census Bureau.

4. Amarillo, Texas


Average round trip: 35.4 minutes (or 17.7 minutes each way)

Amarillo has the highest percentage of automobile commuters in the nation at 94.9% car commuting, according to the US Census Bureau’s survey. Those drivers are just lucky to have relatively painless drives.

3. Springfield, Missouri


Average round trip: 35.4 minutes (or 17.7 minutes each way)

Springfield’s commute ties Amarillo, but in the warmer months, more people walk or bike to work here. In the winter, the car is king.

2. Sioux Falls, South Dakota


Average round trip: 33.8 minutes (or 16.9 minutes each way)

The low population density of Sioux Falls helps ameliorate the traffic issues that would otherwise be caused by its 92.7% car commuter statistic, according to the US Census Bureau’s survey.

1. Lubbock, Texas


Average round trip: 32.8 minutes (or 16.4 minutes each way)

The birthplace of rock n’ roll star Buddy Holly has another feather in its cap: the shortest averaged commute time in America.

The five US cities with the longest commutes

Palmdale, California. Wikimedia Commons

5. Newark, New Jersey

Average round trip: 71 minutes (or 35.5 minutes each way)

Newark sees people commuting for longer in each direction than many workers elsewhere spend on their entire round trip commute, and it’s only the fifth worst.

4. Corona, California


Average round trip: 73.4 minutes (or 36.7 minutes each way)

About a quarter of the residents of Corona spend more than an hour driving to work each day, and then more than an hour getting home, according to the US Census Bureau.

3. Jersey City, New Jersey


Average round trip: 73.6 minutes (or 36.8 minutes each way)

While right next to Newark, the much greater use of public transit by Jersey City residents (26.3% to 48.5%) means a slightly longer trip for folks from the latter.

2. New York, New York


Average round trip: 81.6 minutes (or 40.8 minutes each way)

According to the US Census Bureau’s survey, 10% of New Yorkers walk to work, 56.5% take public transit, and 26.6% drive. And all of it takes forever.

1. Palmdale, California

Average round trip: 85.4 minutes (or 42.7 minutes each way)

Palmdale residents have the dubious distinction of the worst commute in America thanks to the long drive toward Los Angeles that, of course, ends with them snarled in LA’s notoriously difficult traffic.