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.

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“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. gung hoe

    @chrissey I mean 8yrs of granholm and she singlehandedly destroyed our great state and not one peep from people 6months snyder and people calling for his head

    September 22, 2011 at 6:56 am | Report abuse |
    • seth

      You idiots elected her over and over.

      September 23, 2011 at 10:11 am | Report abuse |
  2. chrissy

    sisters decided this was the time to get physical with each other and since im the oldest guess u know who had to intervene! ive never been so ashamed of them as i am now and working very hard to 4give the obnoxious brats oh yea hmmm women i mean lol

    September 22, 2011 at 6:59 am | Report abuse |
  3. chrissy

    gung ho u live in michigan? please tell me where

    September 22, 2011 at 7:02 am | Report abuse |
  4. chrissy

    and hate to differ with you on this gung ho but was g w bush that hurt michigan as well as some other states. and mmmm u done sittin in ur car drinkin ur tea? break time is over pal lol

    September 22, 2011 at 7:07 am | Report abuse |
  5. gung hoe

    O M G chrissy i am so sorry I just wanted to let ya know Ive been reading your blogs

    September 22, 2011 at 7:09 am | Report abuse |
  6. chrissy

    and ok maybe ppl are calling for snyders head cuz in the 6 months hes been in office he has not done l positive thing! another bridge to canada ?? good lord what do we need that for?

    September 22, 2011 at 7:13 am | Report abuse |
  7. chrissy

    dont be sorry my dad was in alot of pain & he was a good man so hes in a much better place. he may not be here in the physical sense but hes in my heart. & i talk 2 him still & i swear he talks 2 me. make me sound crazy? lol & u never said where u live?

    September 22, 2011 at 7:21 am | Report abuse |
  8. gung hoe

    @ chrissey Like banasy told me thats whats great about america we can differ and still be friends

    September 22, 2011 at 7:21 am | Report abuse |
  9. gung hoe

    @ chrissey lennon about 15 mi west of flint Got to go 2 work

    September 22, 2011 at 7:29 am | Report abuse |
  10. chrissy

    banasy is a good person. i particularly liked her story of the bad potato lmao and mmmm unless ur with queen elizabeth i believe tea time is over. so gung ho are u ever gonna tell me what part of mich ur in? we could be neighbors ya never know? lol

    September 22, 2011 at 7:31 am | Report abuse |
  11. chrissy

    have fun at work gung ho ttyl i hope and ive been there and now i live south of you so i pass by on my trips back home. dont work too hard.

    September 22, 2011 at 7:35 am | Report abuse |
  12. gung hoe

    @ chrissey your talkin 2 right person about ur dad he is with you you are religious you know the soul is with you and guiding you and yes talking 2 you not like u and i talk but you know what im talkin about

    September 22, 2011 at 7:42 am | Report abuse |
  13. gung hoe

    Yep chrissy but i couldnt leave you like that i hope i gave you some reassuranse about your daddy

    September 22, 2011 at 7:54 am | Report abuse |
  14. chrissy

    yup i do and ty gung hoe & dang i hate callin u a garden utinsel lmao i was mispellin ur name b4 cuz of that hope u know lol now get ur butt 2 work, u know what they say bout that comute thing lol and just be glad u dont gotta take the not so smart bus!

    September 22, 2011 at 8:01 am | Report abuse |
  15. gung hoe

    @ chrissy if you have a problem with gung hoe you can call me reverand herman or rev or herm Just dont call me a bad name ok please

    September 22, 2011 at 8:51 am | Report abuse |
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