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. halito

    Please – I am fr Great Falls. I don't want to see MT ruined by jerks who want to move there and bringing their problems with them.

    September 23, 2011 at 8:58 am | Report abuse |
    • Salam

      Don't worry no one will move from NYC to a state with the cultural impact of a wet carott, it amazes me where "people" can live

      September 23, 2011 at 9:26 am | Report abuse |
    • Salam

      Lol I meant carrot, now I'm typing like one over them

      September 23, 2011 at 9:33 am | Report abuse |
    • Miss Demeanor

      RE: "Don't worry no one will move from NYC to a state with the cultural impact of a wet carott, it amazes me where "people" can live"

      Funny you mentioned NYC...I'll bet 90% of the country thought of New York when the post above mentioned 'jerks'. Sweet.

      September 23, 2011 at 9:45 am | Report abuse |
    • Steve

      Salam, you're so cool.

      September 23, 2011 at 9:51 am | Report abuse |
  2. Pete

    That's right. Now all you have to do to get a slightly shorter commute is get your house sold where you're at, get a job in Great Falls, MT, find someplace to live there, pay to have all your stuff transported there and all the expenses to transport yourself and your family there, get the kids enrolled in school there, transfer your bank account if there's not a branch of your bank in Great Falls, which involves transferring all automatic bill pays you may have set up (if your new bank even offers such a thing), go to the DMV and get your car licensed in MT and get a MT drivers' license.

    what could be easier???

    September 23, 2011 at 9:12 am | Report abuse |
    • Paul

      And find a new doctor, dentist, pediatrician, friends...

      September 23, 2011 at 9:18 am | Report abuse |
    • Mike

      If that's the case no one should ever leave where they live. It's not THAT hard. but maybe that's just me. I spent 8 years in the military so moving was pretty routine. I'd be hard pressed to move from D.C. to a little town though. Not enough options to lure me.

      September 23, 2011 at 10:14 am | Report abuse |
  3. Ace1996

    Right now anywhere other than NYC is sounding real good.

    September 23, 2011 at 9:13 am | Report abuse |
  4. Gerardo

    Montana=terrible 8months of winter! I'll deal with some traffic in san Diego any day!

    September 23, 2011 at 9:46 am | Report abuse |
  5. Steve

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

    Well, duh.

    September 23, 2011 at 9:46 am | Report abuse |
  6. Bet

    The statistic about non-Hispanic black workers who rely on public transit having the longest commute is a bit misleading. Yes, I believe that that is true on average. But parsing things out by race doesn't make a lot of sense in this context. It paints a picture of poor, oppressed blacks being forced to suffer on long commutes on public transit, while whites whiz along alone in their cars. But in large cities, whites and blacks use public transit for commutes at about equal rates. Whites are not commuting to work by car in big cities where there is almost never any parking at places of employment – even white collar white workers "must rely" on public transit in cities. Non-hispanic blacks tend to live in big cities more than they live in the country, while country areas – with car commutes and not much traffic – do not have many black residents. Quite frankly I'd rather live somewhere where I can get to work in any way other than driving, even if my drive would be short and my subway ride long.

    September 23, 2011 at 10:06 am | Report abuse |
    • Jimmy

      That little bit of wisdom seems to have escaped the writers of this article. Pretty much EVERYONE uses the subway in NYC, save the super elite rich as parking is scarce and expensive.

      September 23, 2011 at 10:31 am | Report abuse |
  7. Martin

    Even though I couldn't to it on a map, I heard Montana is loaded with Beav. wickedimproper . com

    September 23, 2011 at 10:24 am | Report abuse |
  8. Jit Face

    How about just get fired from your job & collect unemployment? Then you dont have to drive anywhere & you can sleep in & watch movies all day.

    September 23, 2011 at 10:27 am | Report abuse |
  9. Uneducated

    Montana is terrible, no one move there!

    September 23, 2011 at 10:28 am | Report abuse |
  10. Jimmy

    Only a complete moron would drive in NYC or any other large city. They all have public transportation systems that relieve you of the stress of having to drive, not to mention the expense.

    September 23, 2011 at 10:29 am | Report abuse |
  11. OmraN

    Montana ?!? It must be nice but visit not to live there.
    70 % of US population live on 3 % of US Land.
    Meaning around 240 millions live on 3% of the us total land
    and around 75 millions live on 97% of the US land.

    September 23, 2011 at 12:39 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Jorge

    I been through Montana, and it just keeps on going. The reason for the better commute is because there are hardly any poeple around to have traffic. I went through there at no less than 100 mph, what does that tell you? Where the cops at? Not exactly the kind of place I want to live in, especially with children. And compare to New York? Yeah, like 50,000 can be compared to over 4 million, there's a reasonable comparison..geez. And of course they don't mention the freezing cold wether that keeps people locked in their houses. Well yeah, I bet traffic is awesome there..zoom-zoom.

    September 23, 2011 at 1:15 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Kyla

    Great Falls Montana is one save awesome place to live. Where else could you live and it only takes 20 to 15 mins to be in the Mountains and are police here in Montana our awesome they serve and protect us just like any metro city police do. So if you morons have nothing nice to say to a state you no thing about why don't you keep it to yourself.
    Don't mess with Montana.

    September 23, 2011 at 5:21 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Andrew M

    To say that this article is retarded would be an insult to mentally handicapped people. If I live in New York, I live in New York for the fact that it's New York and accept its good with its bad. If I want to live in a hick town like Great Falls, Des Moines or some other bump in the road I am not there for the same reasons as I would be for in New York. This is like complaining that a fat chick can't bend over and touch her toes. Jesus H!

    September 23, 2011 at 6:55 pm | Report abuse |
  15. mandy lohof

    You must have drove through before the speed limit change. Still I've never driven a 100 mph and I've lived here a long time. That's just dumb.

    September 23, 2011 at 8:17 pm | Report abuse |
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