Want an easier commute? Try Great Falls, Montana
The New York metro area has the longest U.S. commute at 34.6 minutes on average.
September 22nd, 2011
03:00 AM ET

Want an easier commute? Try Great Falls, Montana

Here’s an honor to add to the welcome sign in town: Great Falls, Montana, home to the United States’ shortest commute.

At just 14.2 minutes, the average commute in Montana’s third-largest city is beating New York’s by 20 minutes. According to a Census Bureau report released Thursday, workers in the New York metro area require an average 34.6 minutes to get to their jobs.

Commuting in the United States: 2009,” ranks the commutes, and says a lucky 13% of commuters get to work in less than 10 minutes. About 2% need 90 minutes or longer for their daily trips.

The average U.S. commute: About 25 minutes.

It’s not bad – about the same as in 2000, actually – but it’s no Great Falls.

Montana drivers usually judge a commute by miles, not minutes, said David Kack, program manager for mobility and public transportation at the Western Transportation Institute at Montana State University. Even if they're driving 200 miles, he said,  most people in Montana assume they’ll be trucking along at 70 or 80 mph on traffic-free roads.

“We talk about our ‘rush minute’ instead of ‘rush hour,’” Kack said.

Great Falls has 58,505 residents and plenty of roadway for everyone, Kack said. More importantly, there’s plenty of affordable housing close to the city center, which prevents residents from spreading out in search of cheaper places to live.

The 10 shortest average commutes are all in metro areas with fewer than 300,000 people.

Explore the country by the numbers on CNN.com's Defining America map

“It’s a very different scale. You don’t have all the folks,” said Kack, who lives in Bozeman. “To an extent, that’s why people live in Montana.”

Other fun facts to mull during the drive home:

When getting to work, there are winners and losers

When the Census Bureau began collecting commute data in 1960, about 41 million got to work in private automobiles. By 2009, that number jumped to 120 million, and 76.1% drive alone.  But the 5% of commuters who get to work using trains, trolleys, buses and ferries have longer commutes than those who drive.

The metro areas with the longest commutes in the United States are New York, at 34.6 minutes; Washington, 33.4 minutes; Poughkeepsie, New York, 32.2 minutes; Bremerton-Silverdale, Washington, 30.8 minutes; Chicago, 30.7 minutes; Winchester, Virginia, 30.3 minutes; Atlanta, Georgia, 30.1 minutes; Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, California, 30 minutes; Stockton, California, 29.8 minutes; Baltimore, Maryland, 29.7 minutes.

The shortest commutes: Great Falls, Montana, at 14.2 minutes; Lewiston, Idaho, 14.7 minutes; Grand Forks, North Dakota,15.1 minutes; Lubbock, Texas,15.5; Missoula, Montana, 15.8 minutes; San Angelo, Texas, 15.9 minutes; Cheyenne, Wyoming, 15.9 minutes; Midland, Texas, 16 minutes; Lawton, Oklahoma, 16 minutes and Decatur, Illinois, 16.5 minutes.

Commutes differ with race, ethnicity and gender

Most workers leave home between 7 a.m. and 7:59 a.m., but men are more likely to leave early – almost 40% of them depart before 7 a.m., while less than 25% women leave that early. The average commute time for men is 26.7 minutes; for women, it’s 23.4 minutes.

Nearly 84% of white workers who aren’t Hispanic drive to work alone - about 10% more than any other racial or ethnic group – and Hispanic people are more likely to ride together. They carpool at a rate of 16.4%, compared to 9.5% for non-Hispanic workers.

So who has the longest commute? Non-Hispanic black workers who rely on transit. Their average travel time is 50 minutes, double the national average.

Oregon is tops for cyclists – and not bad for walkers, either

The top metro areas for commuting by bicycle are Corvallis, Oregon, where 9.3% of workers travel by bike, followed by Eugene-Springfield, Oregon; Fort Collins-Loveland, Colorado; Boulder, Colorado; and Missoula, Montana.

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It didn’t crack the Top 10, but Portland, Oregon, is the only metro area with more than 1 million people where more than 2% of commuters travel by bike.

The top metro area for foot-powered commutes is Ithaca, New York, where 15.1% walk to work. Other top metro areas are Corvallis, Oregon; Ames, Iowa; Champaign-Urbana, Illinois;  and Manhattan, Kansas.

What do they have in common? Many of the places with more biking and walking are home to major universities.

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Filed under: Census
soundoff (138 Responses)
  1. Andreas Moser

    I live in London and commute up to an hour each way. Sometimes 90 minutes. Terrible.
    I should move to a small town.

    September 22, 2011 at 4:34 am | Report abuse |
  2. chrissy

    whatever u do dont move to detroit! commutors are now waiting up to 3 hours for the buses which by the way are inaptly called smart bus, nothing smart about that when many ppl are losing their jobs over this situation! guess its what to expect when u have

    September 22, 2011 at 4:53 am | Report abuse |
  3. chrissy

    a retired basketball player 4 a mayor. then u have gov. snyder who doesnt want to talk about money he wants to talk about change! his idea of change – discontinue the headstart program and the hot lunch program for school children! uneducated & starving

    September 22, 2011 at 4:58 am | Report abuse |
  4. chrissy

    kids!! perfect recipe for change isnt it? more like a disaster lookin for a place to happen! either they will turn into felons or die. so as i see it not one positive thing has happened since these 2 idiots took office and have sent mich into the sewer!

    September 22, 2011 at 5:04 am | Report abuse |
  5. chrissy

    sure would love for cnn to look into the spiriling downfall of michigan and make public their findings. maybe then we could get some change that works. i for one am sick of seeing the growing number of homeless ppl here. its unfreakingbelievable

    September 22, 2011 at 5:10 am | Report abuse |
    • Mmmmm

      Where do you expect them to go? They are guests and an accurate indicator of your compassion and are God's favorite people.

      September 22, 2011 at 5:25 am | Report abuse |
  6. tilmeismoney

    When you add up 300 days a years , it's cheaper to live closer to work. Not to mention the lost time.And the cost of a car, .50 per mile.

    September 22, 2011 at 5:28 am | Report abuse |
    • Mmmmm

      The article does not really focus on motivations for commuting...money and housing is not usually the concern...

      September 22, 2011 at 5:50 am | Report abuse |
  7. chrissy

    was that directed @ me mmmm? and where do i expect whom to go?

    September 22, 2011 at 5:53 am | Report abuse |
  8. chrissy

    and btw good morning and hello its been along time since we chatted. i was venting sorry if it disturbed you. just watched the am news and was disturbed myself. but i could think of a cpl locations and one in particular for mayor bing and gov snydor lol

    September 22, 2011 at 5:58 am | Report abuse |
  9. chrissy

    yes? lmao yes what?

    September 22, 2011 at 6:22 am | Report abuse |
  10. chrissy

    and thank you for making me laugh, havent done much of that lately

    September 22, 2011 at 6:24 am | Report abuse |
    • Mmmmm

      You're welcome...you can be happy with God.
      Mother Theresa of Calcutta.

      September 22, 2011 at 6:33 am | Report abuse |
  11. chrissy

    well been just a little bit pre-occupied lately. but the times they are a changing! and u?

    September 22, 2011 at 6:29 am | Report abuse |
  12. gung hoe

    @chrissey hey i got a good laugh reading your comments You guys must be doin alright going canoeing on ausable and all And Ive not worked so much since Granholm took office

    September 22, 2011 at 6:44 am | Report abuse |
  13. Mmmmm

    Step away from the desk, back away slowly, keeping your hands in the air...getta cup of coffee or tea or sit inyah car...you will a laugh and get some peace. Change is constantly looking me in the face that's why I'm praying to hit the lottery!

    September 22, 2011 at 6:45 am | Report abuse |
  14. chrissy

    i am very happy with god! its been the one and only thing keeping me going lately and how did you know lol my favorite yesterday was daniel 2:44 lmao

    September 22, 2011 at 6:47 am | Report abuse |
  15. chrissy

    lmfao @mmmm and ty gung ho unfortunately this visit back home i wasnt able to go canoeing. my father passed away and was burried on mon which was his birthday. but ya know i bet he woulda said take the canoe lil girl and go for a spin! unfortunately my

    September 22, 2011 at 6:53 am | Report abuse |
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