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. Joepub

    What about Austin Texas. I can't believe that's not on the list as one of the worst places to commute.

    September 22, 2011 at 3:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Steve

      Probably cause it's from 2009. I feel like things have gotten way worse in the last two years.

      September 22, 2011 at 5:38 pm | Report abuse |
  2. SB

    We raised our kids in Bozeman......the commute was short but the winter and biting cold wind was very long. But the winter in Great Falls is far-far worse than the winters in Bozeman.....you couldn't pay me to live in Great Falls.

    September 22, 2011 at 3:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Travis

      I love Bozeman but you would have to pay me to live there, I couldn't afford it!

      September 22, 2011 at 4:17 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Andrea

    Any mention of Jacksonville, FL? We're the largest (land size) city in the US. It can take an hour to drive from the beach to the west side, even with interstates & highways. Worse in rush hour! People try to get houses near work, otherwise 2 hours a day can be spent driving back & forth.

    September 22, 2011 at 3:43 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Montana

    No, we don't want anymore people here. Besides, the Winters are hell here anyway.

    September 22, 2011 at 3:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Missoula

      Please don't come here. The weather sucks and we are all a bunch of liberal hippies who smell funny. We will gum up any public proceeding we can get our hands on in a protest! Montana is awful...just awful. You don't want to move here, trust me! The short commute isn't worth it if all you can afford is a 1975 Pinto. Just saying...

      September 22, 2011 at 5:13 pm | Report abuse |
  5. wswsethb

    g falls is a $**thole

    September 22, 2011 at 3:46 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Nicole

    Montana born, raised, and proud! I miss it so much and would live in Great Falls by my parents any day any time.

    September 22, 2011 at 3:56 pm | Report abuse |
  7. FLACGuy

    Have you included U.S. territories in your survey? I live in Puerto Rico and about 8 miles from my office and it takes me 60 minutes each morning to get there and 60 minutes back!!

    September 22, 2011 at 4:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • seth

      So ride a bike around traffic.

      September 23, 2011 at 10:13 am | Report abuse |
  8. MTErik

    The winters are long and tough. Not for everybody, only the tough live in old Montucky.

    September 22, 2011 at 5:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • MTHolliday

      I used to love walking to work in Whitefish, even in the winter, and laughing at all the Californians, Utah-ins and Wahingtonians stuck in the traffic jam to Big Mountain! Heaven forbid they ride the big blue SnowBus.

      September 22, 2011 at 6:03 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Stanley

    Stay the EFFFFF out of our state!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Especially Californians! Find a new state to invade and try to change. We don't want any of you here.

    September 22, 2011 at 5:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • us1776

      Jeez Stanley, snort a little too much?

      September 22, 2011 at 5:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • greatfallsgirl


      September 22, 2011 at 7:22 pm | Report abuse |
  10. asdf

    When an entire large state has less people than Oklahoma City of course the commute will be short. Like I said Palin was not governor over 500k people she was a glorified mayor.

    September 22, 2011 at 6:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • JMOORE

      Please do not insult Montanans by confusing us with Alaska and Ms. Palin.

      September 22, 2011 at 6:15 pm | Report abuse |
  11. MTHolliday

    Largest traffic jam in the state falls on the 2nd or 3rd week of November each year and it takes place in Bozeman and Missoula on alternating years. Go GRIZ!

    September 22, 2011 at 6:08 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Leafonthewind

    Great Falls, short commute? Commute to what? They got any good-paying jobs there? And do I want to freeze to death? It gets really cold there! I think I'll stay where I am. It sometimes takes me more than 20 minutes between work and home even though it is only 5.2 miles, but it's a living . . . and the weather is nice here in CA most of the year.

    September 22, 2011 at 6:54 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Jane

    I just got a $829.99 iPâd2 for only $103.37 and my mom got a $1499.99 HDTV for only $251.92, they are both coming with USPS tomorrow. I would be an idiòt to ever pay full retail prices at places like Wâlmart or Béstbuy. Go here at CoolCent.còm

    September 22, 2011 at 7:54 pm | Report abuse |
  14. New Yorker

    I rather die than living in Montana or anywhere in the Midwest LOL

    September 22, 2011 at 7:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • dumb

      Midwest? Try the Northwest, moron. Stay in NY, please.

      September 23, 2011 at 1:51 am | Report abuse |

      PLEASE STAY IN NY!! I have a 45 mile commute, however, this summer alone I've seen black bears, grizzly bears, mountain lion, eagles, elk, turkeys and I swear the Flathead Lake Monster, all during my commute. Yep...take heed you city folk, it's a terrible to place to live.

      September 23, 2011 at 2:05 am | Report abuse |
  15. Clancy Coot

    yes, Montana is an awful place to live, {; low pay, low temperatures and therefore a low population

    September 22, 2011 at 8:52 pm | Report abuse |
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