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. Dano

    New York has a slower, commute, yes, but there's a ton more to do there.

    September 22, 2011 at 8:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • luluinTX

      ok, im confused....non hispanic white workers....then a paragraph later non hispanic black workers...

      um 2+2 DOES equal 5! way to go, US Census!

      September 23, 2011 at 8:04 am | Report abuse |
  2. NYCBob

    In NYC, its a 34 minute commute? Maybe if you live near work and take the subway. In the suburbs, its at least an hour to hour and a half each way. I leave my house at 7:06am, get to work at 8:30am. I don't know anyone who gets to work in half an hour. Dream on.

    September 22, 2011 at 9:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brad

      how does it only take you an hour and a half in NY, i live in D.C and it takes me that long!

      September 22, 2011 at 10:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • rick

      10 minutes for me in Metro Detroit

      September 23, 2011 at 7:57 am | Report abuse |
  3. Teri

    One way is now 35 minutes for me – that's the shortest commute time that I've had in over 20 years. That's down from the hour and 15 a few years ago. Looking back, I don't know how I ever did it. I'm envious of people who live close enough that they can run home at lunch time.

    September 22, 2011 at 10:33 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Glenn

    Duh, small cities are easy to cross.

    September 22, 2011 at 10:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Floyd from Ilinois

      Welcome to small town America.

      My drive commute is eight minutes, I can WALK it in half an hour.

      September 23, 2011 at 8:51 am | Report abuse |
  5. ralk

    And this is news...cnn grow up huh!

    September 22, 2011 at 10:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • what

      What do you want as news? Lindsay Lohan going to another party?

      September 22, 2011 at 11:13 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Tom

    There's no commute in Montana because there's no jobs.

    September 22, 2011 at 11:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • dumb

      No jobs in construction, maybe. But thank God. We don't want any more development.

      September 23, 2011 at 1:56 am | Report abuse |
    • Joe in Kalispell

      Montana unemployment is better than many states. Besides we have clean air, clean water, no crowds, no traffic, low crime and only a few idiots. Lots better than NYC or L.A.

      September 23, 2011 at 3:08 am | Report abuse |
    • Miss Demeanor

      RE: "Montana unemployment is better than many states..."

      Careful... New Yorkers will assume you mean unemployment benefits are better. You don't want to attract them... just look at what Florida has become.

      September 23, 2011 at 9:50 am | Report abuse |
  7. Aaron

    It's a scary commute in the 9 months or so per year of snow and ice in Great Falls.

    September 22, 2011 at 11:57 pm | Report abuse |
  8. DT

    I suppose "a ton more to do in larger cities" is relative to what an individual likes to do. I live in Helena, Montana and there's a lot of things to do here. Anything outdoors, epic trail running, snowboarding, mountain biking, delicious restaurants, fresh air, etc...

    September 23, 2011 at 12:32 am | Report abuse |
    • katie

      For the past few years I have been somewhat enthralled with the idea of montana. Everything looks so beautiful. Currently I live in NYC and would greatly miss everything that it has to offer, including proximity to the ocean, but Montana is tempting, but only if I could live on a ranch, with horses and whatnot.

      September 23, 2011 at 9:30 am | Report abuse |
  9. Andrea M

    Denver is good for bike commuting too, so long as the weather cooperates. Some trips are actually faster on a bike than in a car on the bike paths.

    September 23, 2011 at 1:24 am | Report abuse |
    • Just so you know

      Yes and Colorado its getting more like California every day. Californians should move to Colorado, not Montana.

      September 23, 2011 at 9:52 am | Report abuse |
  10. marinewifeyuma

    Well if I am lucky to have the truck my commute is about 15 minutes here in Yuma,az. But I am from Northern Texas and there really isn't much traffic. We are mostly highways. Although the streets are all in a tangle in the big cities like Lubbock, and Amarillo. We are thinking about moving to Montana. I would love it, country sides, seasons, horses, ranches, Snow. Just what I am looking for.

    September 23, 2011 at 2:51 am | Report abuse |
    • chris

      snow!!! yuck,. i cant wait to escape the snow.

      September 23, 2011 at 3:18 am | Report abuse |
  11. Joe in Kalispell

    No worse than Kalispell... drive carefully and have proper tires and its a breeze.

    September 23, 2011 at 3:10 am | Report abuse |
  12. James

    while less than 25% women leave that early. This is why traffic is so bad during this hour. Women drivers !

    September 23, 2011 at 4:50 am | Report abuse |
  13. kaye

    dear cnn, keep mt the way it is. low population and easy commute. STOP TRYING TO MOTIVATE PEOPLE TO GO THERE! it is hard enough to find a job without you jerks trying to send people to mt with false hope. winters are brutal, not alot of jobs and public transport is not very useful. no great shopping.

    September 23, 2011 at 8:13 am | Report abuse |
    • Just so you know

      you forgot to mention that California snow board dudes are popular taxidermy mounts in MT

      September 23, 2011 at 9:55 am | Report abuse |
  14. BV

    That's complete BS. In a suburb of Baton Rouge, it takes me 45-75 minutes to go < 20 miles.

    September 23, 2011 at 8:28 am | Report abuse |
  15. Krista in Great Falls

    14.2 is a stretch. That must be during rush hour AND tourist season. Today I will leave at 7:57 to work at 8:00. NY can have it ALL. I love this beautiful place.

    September 23, 2011 at 8:40 am | Report abuse |
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