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)

    i work outta my trailer breeding nerfs & selling weed, i deliver pizzas to cover my income...

    September 22, 2011 at 10:04 am | Report abuse |
    • Greg

      That's the craziest $h1t I've ever read! Hilarious as he11 though...

      I envy your lifestyle.

      September 22, 2011 at 1:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nicole

      Stupid is as stupid does!!

      September 22, 2011 at 1:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Charles Rowland

      my wife is from Montana.. i went to school there.. have you ever been to Montana?? its a short commute because there is nothing there (no, i have not been to great falls, only the eastern side of the state as far as Boseman).... a few odds and ends but overall... void of anything and everything useful.

      September 22, 2011 at 1:59 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Lynn

    Maybe a short commute, but the winters are no fun. I'm so glad I don't live there anymore.

    September 22, 2011 at 11:14 am | Report abuse |
    • Bobcats suk

      I’m so glad the winters thin out the weak.

      September 22, 2011 at 1:23 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Augie

    I telecommute so my commute takes me as much time to walk from my bedroom to my home office. I have a treadmill desk so I spend my day working on the computer and walking about 7-8 miles. I burn around 900 calories/day just from doing this. Aside from not having to work, I wouldn't want it any other way.

    September 22, 2011 at 12:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jillian Michaels

      Cool story, fatty!

      September 22, 2011 at 2:17 pm | Report abuse |
  4. james stirk

    You notice how they didn't address commuting in the endless winters.

    September 22, 2011 at 1:12 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Buck

    Since Im here illeagal I get free transpertation from the city.

    September 22, 2011 at 1:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • crookedarm

      I think free English classes would be a lot more beneficial.

      September 22, 2011 at 2:07 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Joe

    If you have been there the place is a pleasure to get around. Built as a perfect grid set of streets. You can't get lost no matter how hard you try on a checker board with easy numbers. Favorite city to drive in Great Falls.

    September 22, 2011 at 1:31 pm | Report abuse |
  7. R

    Montana represent!

    September 22, 2011 at 1:40 pm | Report abuse |
  8. go griz!

    I'm sitting in great falls now lol just watch out for the nazi cops they'll get ya!

    September 22, 2011 at 1:42 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Montanagirl

    Yes, but the winters are long and harsh in Great Falls, that's why no one lives there and fewer commute.

    September 22, 2011 at 2:04 pm | Report abuse |
  10. mquigley

    Commute...!? What's a commute...never heard of it before here!

    September 22, 2011 at 2:04 pm | Report abuse |
  11. MTdust

    I would have to disagree I hardly ever look at milage in MT and I have lived here almost my whole life.

    "Montana drivers usually judge a commute by miles, not minutes, said David Kack,"

    I know its 15 min to work, or 3.5 hrs to Great falls or 2 hours to mIssoula. I don't know of any of my friends that count miles. They all count time to drive.

    September 22, 2011 at 2:21 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Travis

    I love Great Falls for the quick run across town. The commute actually gets shorter come winter, with less people on the road. The only thing that slows a person down in the elderly that putt around 10 miles under the speed limit. Luckily most roads you can pass them though. Every other town annoys me for how long it takes to get anywhere and streets are all named rather than numbered. Those developers are idiots!

    September 22, 2011 at 2:36 pm | Report abuse |
  13. How many will there be?

    "To an extent, that’s why people live in Montana." ROFLMAO. Yeah, all 900,000 of them... 44th out of 50 in rank by population.

    September 22, 2011 at 3:09 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Rick

    Personally, I like commuting by train even though it takes me about 20 minutes longer each way. When I drive, I can't get anything else done and my nerves are always on edge. On the train I can read, write, get some work done, etc. I'm totally relaxed. It's productive time rather than wasted time. I also save at least $3000 per year for parking, gas, car repairs, etc. I don't miss the driving at all.

    September 22, 2011 at 3:18 pm | Report abuse |
  15. joe

    My Great Falls 5 am commute is always about 10 minutes with no traffic and always a grand spetacular sun rise. The Rush Minute you speak of is not the greatest, as Great Falls is divided by the Missouri River and only has 4 bridges. 1 of the main bridges is under repairs, so traffic only flows one way. So now the other traffic is routed to the other(s) [2 are right next to each other miles from the third] so that puts some time on your movement. I drove Seattle during rush hour this spring, more cars in one street than are in all of Great Falls. And I am only a piano tuner at the local brothel. . .

    September 22, 2011 at 3:25 pm | Report abuse |
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