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Census Shows New York Metro Area Has Longest Commutes

New York Metro Area Has Longest Commutes, Census Shows
Commuters wait for a morning train bound for New York City. Photographer: Steve Hockstein/Bloomberg

The New York City metropolitan area is home to the three-longest average commutes among U.S. mainland counties, U.S. Census Bureau estimates show.

Residents living in Richmond, Queens and Kings counties recorded one-way commutes to work of more than 40 minutes, with Richmond County’s 42.5 minutes being the longest. The estimates are a five-year average compiled from 2005-2009 surveys, according to the Census Bureau. The data, released today, is the last measure of the American lifestyle by the federal government before the 2010 census count is released.

King County in Texas recorded the nation’s shortest average commute at 3.4 minutes, the estimates show. The national average for workers 16 years and older was 25.2 minutes.

The five-year period covered in the survey saw the average price of gasoline fluctuate and more than double from January 2005 to June 2008, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

“It seemed that $3 was a real price point, enough to convince people to change their behavior,” said Virginia Miller, spokeswoman for the American Public Transportation Association, a Washington-based advocacy group.

$1.83 a Gallon

The average retail price of gasoline in January 2005 was $1.83 per gallon, according to the agency. It topped $3 a gallon in May 2007 and exceeded $4 a gallon in June 2008.

During that time period, public transit agencies initially reported ridership increases. As unemployment increased, the number of passenger trips dropped 3.8 percent between 2008 and 2009, the public transportation association’s data shows. The national unemployment rate rose from 5 percent in January 2008 to 10 percent in December 2009.

The commuting times come from the American Community Survey, which is being used to replace the so-called long-form census questionnaire that had asked detailed questions every decade.

Other mainland U.S. counties with average one-way commutes of more than 40 minutes include Pike County, Pennsylvania; Craig County, Virginia; Bronx County, New York; Elbert County, Colorado; Park County, Colorado; Charles County, Maryland; and Catahoula Parish, Louisiana.

Los Angeles County

Los Angeles County, California, home to the nation’s second-largest city by population, recorded an average of 29 minutes, while Cook County, Illinois, home to the third-largest city, Chicago, averaged 31.9 minutes.

It is often the counties outside the central-city counties that record the longest commutes. For example, McHenry County, Illinois, outside Chicago, averaged 33.7 minutes.

Counties outside Washington also recorded some of the longest commutes in the nation. The average commute in Calvert County, Maryland, was 39.3 minutes, while Prince William County, Virginia, recorded 39.1 minutes.

The American Community Survey is designed to complement the decennial count and provide more timely annual data. The data released today included smaller geographic areas and covered topics ranging from commute times to languages spoken at home to housing values. The questionnaire and results are on the bureau’s website.

The census estimates come with varying margins of error for each county, so the exact order of any rankings could be slightly different.

Today’s data is being released a week ahead of the official national and state counts from the 2010 census that will be used to redistribute seats in Congress and influence how $4 trillion in government funds are distributed over 10 years.

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