While remote work has boomed in the last three years, the majority of working Americans still commute to work. According to the Census, a one-way commute took workers an average of 25.6 minutes in 2021. Using this estimate, workers in 2023 will average almost 222 hours (or a little over nine days) driving to and from work. And these hours spent in transit cost commuters more than just their time. The price of fuel, public transit passes and other commuter-related costs can add up quickly.
To uncover where residents have the worst commutes, we compared data from the 100 largest U.S. cities and ranked the worst commutes by six key metrics related to commute time and the cost of commuting. For details on our data sources and how we put all the information together to create our final rankings, read the Data and Methodology section below.
This is SmartAsset’s third study on cities where residents have the worst commutes. Check out the previous version here.
- Despite the rise in remote work, the average commute time went down by only one minute in five years. The national average decreased from 26.6 minutes in 2016 to 25.6 minutes in 2021. Comparatively, the percentage of remote workers has tripled in roughly half the time.
- Southwestern and Southern cities make up the top of the list. Two California cities take the No. 1 and No. 2 spots (Stockton and Bakersfield, respectively). The next eight spots are claimed by cities in another seven states from the South and Southwest. These top-ranking cities saw higher changes over five years in commute times. There is no city outside of these two regions until No. 15 (New York City).
1. Stockton, CA
Stockton, California, takes the No. 1 spot as the city where residents have the worst commutes. By car, it is located 90 minutes east of San Francisco. On average, workers in Stockton have a typical commute of roughly 33 minutes, which is an increase of 6.21% between 2016 and 2021. Over 17% of workers, however, have a commute that lasts longer than one hour (second-highest).
2. Bakersfield, CA
Increases in travel time between 2016 and 2021 pushed Bakersfield, California, to the No. 2 spot. While the average commute time is around 24 minutes, this is up by 10.05% since 2016 (the second-highest change). Similarly, just 6.6% of workers commute over one hour, but that volume has increased by 2.4% over the same time period - the highest increase across all 100 cities in this study.
3. Garland, TX
The majority of workers in Garland, Texas, are commuters (86.1%). And they average the seventh-highest commute time (roughly 30 minutes). About 9.1% of commuters, however, experience drives over one hour (12th-highest). Overall, the average commute time has increased by 2.37% between 2016 and 2021.
4. Glendale, AZ
Roughly 1 in 10 workers commute for more than an hour in Glendale, which ranks 12th-highest for this metric. Between 2016 and 2021, the share of workers with commutes over one hour increased by 1.4% (third-highest). On average, the commute time just exceeds 28 minutes (16th-highest).
5. Orlando, FL
With almost 60 million visitors annually, Orlando, Florida, is known for theme parks like Disney World and Universal Studios. Four-fifths of workers in this city commute to work, typically spending almost 26 minutes on the road. On a more positive note, it takes less than 5% of commuters over an hour to get to work.
6. Las Vegas, NV
Commuters in Sin City make up 86.5% of workers. Their average commute time ranks in the top third of the study (25.7 minutes). But 5% of these commuters experience travel times longer than an hour. And the percentage of workers with commutes over an hour has gone up 0.8% between 2016 and 2021. Las Vegas also ranks in the top 20 for its five-year change in the average commute time (0.78%).
7. El Paso, TX
El Paso, Texas, has roughly 678,000 residents and the majority of its workforce (89.9%) commutes to work (12th-highest). It ranks second overall for transportation costs relative to income, with commuters paying 14.13% of their median household income for transportation in the city and surrounding areas.
8. Baton Rouge, LA
Baton Rouge, Louisiana, has the 11th-highest percentage of commuters in the workforce (90.2%). Transportation in the city and surrounding areas makes up 12.24% of a year’s income (seventh-highest). The average travel time is just under 23 minutes, but more than 6% of workers have a commute that is longer than one hour.
9. Aurora, CO
Located 17 miles outside of Denver, Aurora has the 12th-highest average commute time (28.5 minutes). This average has increased by 1.79% between 2016 and 2021, taking the No. 15 spot for this metric. Roughly 6.8% of workers have commutes that last over an hour (23rd-highest).
10. Winston-Salem, NC
The Camel City rounds out the top 10, with almost 85% of workers commuting to work. They typically spend an average of 21.6 minutes on the road, which is nearly 6% higher than in 2016. Additionally, transportation here generally costs 12.63% of a year’s income.
Data and Methodology
To find the cities with the worst commutes, we compared 100 of the largest cities in the country across the following metrics:
- Commuters as a percentage of workers. Data comes from the Census Bureau’s 2021 1-year American Community Survey.
- Average travel time to work. Data comes from the Census Bureau’s 2021 1-year American Community Survey.
- Five-year change in average travel time. Data comes from the Census Bureau’s 2021 and 2016 1-year American Community Surveys.
- Percentage of workers with a commute longer than 60 minutes. Data comes from the Census Bureau’s 2021 1-year American Community Survey.
- Five-year change in the percentage of workers with a commute longer than 60 minutes. Data comes from the Census Bureau’s 2021 and 2016 1-year American Community Surveys.
- Transportation as a percentage of income. Data comes from the Census Bureau’s 2021 1-year American Community Survey and the MIT Living Wage Calculator.
We ranked each city in every metric, giving all metrics an equal weight except for average travel time, which received a double weight. We then found each city’s average ranking. The city with the highest average ranking places first in our study while the city with the lowest average ranking places last.
Tips for Managing Your Money
- Adjust your budget. If you need to carve out more money for your commuting needs, consider re-evaluating your budget to make sure all your needs are met. Use our budget calculator to get a sense for where you are now and tweak it to see where you could be.
- Work with an expert. A financial advisor can help you create a financial plan for your needs and goals. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to three vetted financial advisors who serve your area, and you can interview your advisor matches at no cost to decide which one is right for you. If you’re ready to find an advisor who can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
Questions about our study? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
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