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cities with the worst commutes
Commuting takes up a lot of time as well as money – money that could be put towards other financial goals like saving up for a trip, car or house. With Americans already spending so much of their time at work, it’s no surprise that those who commute to the workplace might wish to close the distance a little bit.

That isn’t always possible, though. In some cities, the commute can consume a ton of a worker’s time, and that struggle can only get worse as cities grow. To that end, SmartAsset looked at data for the 100 largest U.S. cities across six metrics: average travel time to work, five-year change in average travel time, percentage of workers with a commute over 60 minutes, five-year change in the percentage of workers with a commute over 60 minutes, median income and five year change in median income. For details on our data sources and how we put all the information together to create our final rankings, check out the Data and Methodology section below.

Key Findings

  • The Midwest offers better commutes. The 25 cities with the worst commutes are all in Northeastern, Southern and Western states. In fact, the first Midwestern city in the study – Chicago, Illinois – doesn’t appear until No. 34.
  • Longest commute is almost three times longer than shortest commute. It takes almost a half hour longer to commute to work in New York City than it does in Lubbock, Texas, where commuters need an average of about 15 minutes to travel to work. The total commute time for New Yorkers is approximately 42 minutes.
  • Minimizing commutes helps clear more time for both work and leisure. Seven of the 10 cities with the best commutes also appear in either our study on the best cities to work from home or the cities with the best work-life balance.
  • Commutes longer than one hour dominate the top of the list. Eight out of the 10 cities in the study with the worst commutes – all except North Las Vegas, Nevada and New Orleans, Louisiana – rank in the worst 25% of the study for their high percentages of residents traveling over an hour to get to work.

1. North Las Vegas, NV

North Las Vegas, Nevada is the American city where commuting is taking the greatest toll on workers. It places in the worst 10 cities of this study for all three of our metrics measuring five-year increases. It has the fourth-highest five-year change in average travel time at an increase of 15.12%. It also has the ninth-highest five-year increase in percentage of workers with a commute over 60 minutes, at 2.5%. North Las Vegas has the fifth-lowest five-year change in median income, an increase of only 6.7%.

2. Hialeah, FL

Hialeah, Florida has the highest five-year increase in average travel time, an approximately 36% jump. The city, located near Miami, also had the second-highest five-year change in percentage of workers with a commute over 60 minutes, an increase of 9.6%. Furthermore, Hialeah had the seventh-lowest median income in this study, just $38,252.

3. Philadelphia, PA

The first major East Coast city in our study on the cities with the worst commutes is Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. According to 2018 data, the City of Brotherly Love has the sixth-longest average travel time out of all 100 cities we considered, at 34.4 minutes. It also has the seventh-largest percentage of workers with a commute of at least 60 minutes, at 15.4%.

4. New Orleans, LA (tie)

New Orleans, Louisiana places in the worst 10 cities of the study for three metrics. Travel time increased almost 10% in the five-year period from 2014 through 2018, the seventh-highest rate for this metric in the study. The city has the eighth-lowest median income in the study, $38,423. Furthermore, it has the ninth-smallest five-year change in median income out of all 100 cities in our study, an uptick of only 8.2% from 2014 through 2018.

4. Stockton, CA (tie)

The first of two California cities on this list, Stockton has the second-highest increase in average travel time over the five-year period from 2014 through 2018, at 27.11%. According to 2018 data, Stockton also has the fifth-highest average travel time to work, at 34.7 minutes. Furthermore, it is the worst city in the study when it comes to the five-year change in the percentage of workers with a commute longer than an hour, with a 10.3% increase. About 22.7% of Stockton’s workers have a commute that lasts more than 60 minutes, which is the third-highest percentage for this metric across all 100 cities in the study.

6. Baltimore, MD

Baltimore, Maryland ranks in the worst third of the study for four out of the six metrics we considered. It has the 12th-longest average commute time, at almost 32 minutes, and the 14th-highest percentage of workers with a commute of more than 60 minutes, at 13%.

7. Miami, FL

Miami is the second south Florida city on this list, and it has the ninth-lowest median income in the study, $41,818. Miami also has the 11th-highest five-year change in average travel time, an increase of 8.99% from 2014 through 2018. That makes for a total average commute time of 30.3 minutes, the 18th-longest in the study.

8. Glendale, AZ

Glendale, Arizona has a particularly high five-year change in the percentage of workers with a commute of at least 60 minutes – a jump of 3.4% from 2014 through 2018. According to 2018 data, 9.9% of all workers have at least an hour-long commute. This is the 19th-highest rate for this metric across all 100 cities in the study.

9. New York, NY

New York City performs the worst in the study in the two raw metrics related to commute. The average travel time to work is 42 minutes and the percentage of workers with a commute of more than 60 minutes is 27.6%, both the highest figures for those metrics. The median income, though, is relatively high at $63,799, bringing New York lower on this list to No. 9.

10. Long Beach, CA

Long Beach, California is the final city in this list of the 10 cities with the worst commutes. It has the 12th-highest percentage of workers with a commute of more than one hour, at 14.1%. It also has the 14th-longest average commute in the study, at 31.1 minutes. Long Beach is also one of the cities in the U.S. where homeowners spend the most on housing.

Data and Methodology

To find the cities in America with the worst commutes, SmartAsset looked at the 100 largest U.S. cities and compared them across the following metrics:

  • Average travel time to work in 2018. Data comes from the Census Bureau’s 2018 American Community Survey.
  • Five-year change in average travel time. Data comes from the Census Bureau’s 2018 and 2014 American Community Surveys.
  • Percentage of workers with a commute of over 60 minutes. Data comes from the Census Bureau’s 2018 American Community Survey.
  • Five-year change in percentage of workers with a commute of over 60 minutes. Data comes from the Census Bureau’s 2018 and 2014 American Community Surveys.
  • Median income. Data comes from the Census Bureau’s 2018 American Community Survey. For this study, lower incomes contributed to a worse commute score.
  • Five-year change in median income. Data comes from the Census Bureau’s 2018 and 2014 American Community Surveys. For this study, a smaller change contributed to a worse commute score.

First, we ranked each city in every metric. We then found the average ranking for each city, giving equal weight to every metric. Next, we ranked the cities according to this average, with the city with the worst commute receiving a score of 100 and the city with the best commute receiving a score of 0.

Tips for Making the Most of Your Savings

  • Find financial help without leaving your desk. One part of your life that you should definitely fast track is sorting out your long-term financial plans. Get some professional help with that by seeking the services of a financial advisor. Finding the right financial advisor that fits your needs doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with financial advisors in your area in 5 minutes. If you’re ready to be matched with local advisors that will help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
  • Commute got you down? Consider relocating. You might want to find a new home closer to your office to cut down your commute time. See what that might look like for your finances with SmartAsset’s free mortgage calculator.

Questions about our study? Contact press@smartasset.com   

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/Drazen Zigic

Ben Geier, CEPF® Ben Geier is an experienced financial writer currently serving as a retirement and investing expert at SmartAsset. His work has appeared on Fortune, Mic.com and CNNMoney. Ben is a graduate of Northwestern University and a part-time student at the City University of New York Graduate Center. He is a member of the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing and a Certified Educator in Personal Finance (CEPF®). When he isn’t helping people understand their finances, Ben likes watching hockey, listening to music and experimenting in the kitchen. Originally from Alexandria, VA, he now lives in Brooklyn with his wife.
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