As bad a commute as ever


Traffic is gridlocked on the Long Island Expressway into Manhattan near the turn off for the Queensboro Bridge, Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012. (Jason DeCrow/AP)
Jena McGregor
Columnist March 5, 2013

After sitting on the expressway for an hour or waiting patiently for a late train this morning, you might think it’s taking more and more time to get to work.

It’s not.

Jena McGregor writes a daily column analyzing leadership in the news for the Washington Post’s On Leadership section. View Archive

New data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey released Tuesday found that 8.1 percent of the U.S. workforce has a commute of 60 minutes or longer — roughly the same percentage as in 2000. Numbers stayed similarly flat for so-called “extreme commuters,” those poor souls who commute more than 90 minutes or more to work. In 2011, they made up 2.5 percent of workers, which is even slightly less than the percent who dealt with such a long commute in 2000.

The average commute — 25.5 minutes — is even about the same as it was more than ten years ago.

What’s behind the stagnancy? Not an increased use of carpooling or public transport, those have stayed around 10 and 5 percent, respectively, since 2005. Some instead attribute it to the economy: One expert on commuting notes that “9.8 percent unemployment does wonders for congestion.”

Perhaps it’s also the fact that more people are working from home. The Census Bureau released additional numbers on Tuesday showing that 13.4 million people, or about 9 percent of the working population in 2010, telecommute at least one day per week. That’s up from just 9.2 million people in 1997. Interestingly, the data shows that Thursday is the least likely day of the week that people work from home (Monday and Friday, unsurprisingly, were the most common) and that Boulder, Colo. has the highest percentage of home-based workers in the country.

Also worth noting: Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer looks to be bucking the trend with her recent telecommuting ban. The Census Bureau calls out the computer, engineering and science occupations as having a big jump in remote workers, with a 69-percent increase over 10 years in the number of people working from home.

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