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Chapter 3. TRAVEL TIME AND DEPARTURE TIME

Travel Time

American workers are spending more time than ever getting to work. In 2000, the average travel time to work was 25 minutes and 30 seconds, and increase of over two minutes compared to 1990, after accounting for coding differences1. Ten million workers nationwide now travel 60 minutes or more to their jobs, and 6.7 million of them are workers in large MSAs.

Workers in major metro areas had longer commutes than workers in the rest of the nation. Every one of the 49 metro areas of 1 million or more population saw increased travel time to work. In these large metro areas, 28.7 million commuters usually traveled over 30 minutes to work (see Exhibit 3.1). The change in travel time between 1990 and 2000 shows workers in major MSAs increasingly traveling 45 and even 60 minutes one-way to their places of employment (see Exhibit 3.2).

Exhibit 3.1 Travel Time to Work - Large MSAs and Rest of the Nation: 2000

Exhibit 3.1: Every one of the 49 metro areas of 1 million or more population saw increased travel time to work. In these large metro areas, 28.7 million commuters usually traveled over 30 minutes to work.

1 Some of the increase may be due to the coding of very long trips (those over 100 minutes). The real difference is considered to be just over two minutes. See Chapter 7 for more details.

Exhibit 3.2 Change in Travel Time for Large MSAs: 1990-2000

Exhibit 3.2: The change in travel time between 1990 and 2000 shows workers in major MSAs increasingly traveling 45 and even 60 minutes one-way to their places of employment.

In 2000, the MSAs with the longest travel times after New York (34.0 minutes) are Washington, D.C. (31.7 minutes), Atlanta (31.2 Minutes), and Chicago (31.0 Minutes). Workers in Atlanta reported the largest increase in travel time since 1990, with an increase of 5.2 minutes. The average increase for all major metro areas was 3.1 minutes between 1990 and 2000--twenty of the larger MSAs showed an increase of greater than 3.1 minutes (see Exhibit 3.3 and Exhibit 3.5).

Exhibit 3.3 Areas with a Greater than Average Increase in Travel Time (in minutes): 1990-2000

MSA Name1990 Average Travel Time2000 Average Travel TimeChange in Travel Time
Atlanta2631.25.2
Miami24.128.94.8
West Palm Beach20.925.74.8
Raleigh20.224.94.7
Charlotte21.626.14.5
Boston23.627.84.2
Orlando22.8274.2
New York30344.1
Jacksonville22.626.64
Philadelphia2427.93.9
Austin21.725.53.8
Tampa21.825.63.8
Sacramento21.825.63.8
Las Vegas20.324.13.8
San Francisco25.629.33.7
Denver22.225.93.7
Providence19.623.23.6
Seattle24.127.73.6
Greensboro18.822.43.6
Washington, DC28.231.73.5
Dallas24.127.53.4

A declining proportion of workers have short commutes (less than 15 minutes) in the large metro areas, and a greater proportion of workers are traveling 45 minutes and more (see Exhibit 3.4). Austin, Orlando, and Las Vegas all saw large shifts away from the shortest commutes (10 percentage points or more). As reflected in the average travel time, New York had the greatest proportion of workers traveling 60 minutes or more, 18.4 percent, followed by Chicago with 13.2 percent (see Exhibit 3.6).

Exhibit 3.4 Travel Time to Work: 1980-2000

Exhibit 3.4: A declining proportion of workers have short commutes (less than 15 minutes) in the large metro areas, and a greater proportion of workers are traveling 45 minutes and more.

The shift to drove alone as a commute mode in the 1980s may have deferred large increases in travel time during that decade, since driving is generally a faster mode than others. Suburbanization also saves travel time for first residents to new development since, although the distance may have increased for a commute, less congested and higher order facility types may be used. The increase in travel time during the 1990s may be a reflection of the shift to private vehicle and the continued dispersal of residences and jobs.

In 1980, 43.4 percent of commuters traveled less than 20 minutes one-way to their place of work, by 2000 only 38.2 percent did. Conversely, in 1980, 34.0 percent of commuters traveled more than 30 minutes one-way, by 2000, 40.6 percent did. In six large areas, 10 to 20 percent of workers travel 60 minutes or more one-way to their place of work (see Exhibit 3.6).

Exhibit 3.5 Mean Travel Time to Work: 1990-2000

Name of MSATotal WorkersTotal Workers -Did Not Work at HomeAverage Travel Time (in minutes)
199020001990200019902000
National Total115,070,274128,279,228111,664,249124,095,00522.425.5
New York9,271,0899,319,2189,051,8589,042,06830.034.0
Los Angeles6,809,0436,767,6196,622,9416,526,16826.429.1
Chicago3,922,2954,218,1083,838,7454,096,43727.931.0
Washington, DC3,611,0943,839,0523,514,3953,704,99328.231.7
San Francisco3,200,8333,432,1573,089,2683,292,67725.629.3
Philadelphia2,784,5812,815,4052,722,1072,735,58824.027.9
Boston2,760,4352,898,6802,691,2782,807,06323.627.8
Detroit2,294,1082,482,4572,253,5942,425,77623.126.1
Dallas2,038,3982,527,6481,991,6752,452,24824.127.5
Houston1,768,5672,081,6071,732,0432,029,96326.128.8
Atlanta1,542,9482,060,6321,508,7341,988,66926.031.2
Miami1,476,0851,642,8661,446,9361,597,20824.128.9
Seattle1,499,7341,776,2241,446,1751,701,61924.127.7
Phoenix1,036,0171,466,4341,005,9461,412,73523.026.1
Minneapolis1,344,7971,595,5501,298,2951,534,93921.223.7
Cleveland1,282,0921,375,7741,256,5501,339,15621.924.0
San Diego1,230,4461,299,5031,169,1611,242,32122.225.3
St. Louis1,166,0231,238,9641,137,9461,203,67223.225.5
Denver1,026,8471,346,025988,8321,282,54022.225.9
tampa914,7111,063,957893,9421,030,61221.825.6
Pittsburgh1,023,8251,057,3541,002,0811,031,61222.525.3
Portland861,1411,105,133828,1561,054,29421.524.4
Cincinnati844,125951,709825,666925,72622.424.3
Sacramento685,945799,989664,607767,71021.825.6
Kansas City778,624881,258756,935851,19721.522.9
Milwaukee772,752816,880755,421796,07620.022.1
Orlando614,382786,243602,100763,73622.827.0
Indianapolis683,007795,755666,683772,34221.823.8
San Antonio578,529698,685564,921680,73922.024.5
Norfolk720,890760,401682,931740,05921.824.1
Las Vegas416,025702,535409,557686,05920.324.1
Columbus663,006777,922647,894754,87621.223.2
Charlotte604,856751,629593,466730,64721.626.1
New Orleans531,697570,423522,522556,67224.326.7
Salt Lake City479,338642,688464,492618,44319.822.4
Greensboro550,325618,921539,047604,02718.822.4
Austin431,345649,645418,607626,27821.725.5
Nashville495,717621,221482,975601,23422.725.8
Providence540,872555,540531,460543,92119.623.2
Raleigh461,516617,475450,723596,10020.224.9
Hartford597,831573,114585,942558,68420.722.9
Buffalo531,122520,350521,314509,45719.421.1
Memphis458,534511,111451,644499,98221.824.6
West Palm Beach380,260475,572370,090456,11820.925.7
Jacksonville443,882527,718432,361515,65122.626.6
Rochester509,733516,814497,134501,90119.821.1
Grand Rapids442,228531,924429,764515,49518.320.7
Oklahoma City450,122509,262438,861494,81820.322.0
Louisville442,933492,821434,608481,23421.322.7

Exhibit 3.6 Percent distribution of Workers who Did Not Work at Home by Travel Time to Work: 1980-2000

MSA NameLess Than 15 Minutes15 - 29 Minutes30 - 44 Minutes45 - 59 Minutes60 or more Minutes
198019902000198019902000198019902000198019902000198019902000
New York23.723.320.230.130.028.819.320.721.39.510.511.317.415.618.4
Los Angeles27.724.522.438.035.334.920.522.222.67.28.59.06.79.511.1
Chicago25.123.721.331.831.530.321.923.123.510.110.811.711.110.813.2
Washington, DC20.920.017.734.533.832.124.724.724.910.611.612.49.39.912.8
San Francisco27.425.922.237.539.234.020.221.422.07.87.610.07.15.911.8
Philadelphia27.927.824.735.836.434.620.320.921.78.28.69.57.86.39.5
Boston34.430.325.635.534.732.817.920.522.06.68.19.85.66.49.9
Detroit27.526.924.540.740.538.221.021.022.16.67.08.64.24.66.6
Dallas27.024.622.439.839.035.921.823.024.06.78.19.94.65.37.8
Houston23.322.721.034.535.733.824.124.425.19.89.910.98.27.49.2
Atlantb23.621.318.336.336.232.423.925.225.19.110.912.47.06.411.8
Miami25.122.619.040.239.335.323.625.726.76.47.810.34.74.78.8
Seattle28.426.023.440.339.836.620.322.822.26.07.28.75.04.39.1
Phoenix30.527.523.839.939.337.020.622.124.15.06.88.84.04.46.3
Minneapolis32.829.326.442.243.741.417.518.821.34.75.26.72.82.94.2
Cleveland28.828.827.340.441.540.620.520.320.86.35.96.64.03.54.7
San Diego34.525.424.742.636.140.716.321.421.63.48.86.73.28.26.4
St. Louis27.132.324.938.846.337.922.614.923.17.23.38.44.33.15.6
Denver28.527.924.041.741.738.120.820.923.75.35.88.23.73.76.0
tampa32.129.726.442.240.137.817.820.021.34.36.28.13.54.16.5
Pittsburgh29.630.328.337.837.936.419.919.520.27.07.58.35.74.86.9
Portland32.530.927.240.741.739.817.818.020.45.05.46.94.04.15.7
Cincinnati27.526.925.741.942.541.120.820.721.75.86.16.94.03.74.6
Sacramento34.730.026.843.141.838.815.418.621.03.65.36.63.24.36.7
Kansas City30.028.728.042.242.641.919.720.320.64.85.25.83.33.13.7
Milwaukee34.633.030.743.844.142.815.416.118.03.83.94.82.42.83.8
Orlando32.225.921.142.140.038.118.123.125.84.07.28.83.73.86.2
Indianapolis29.428.527.043.743.140.819.119.821.64.65.06.13.23.74.4
San Antonio29.827.823.944.942.243.218.320.522.23.55.45.73.54.25.0
Norfolk29.127.426.043.042.842.918.920.120.34.86.15.94.23.74.9
Las Vegas35.531.124.447.748.345.211.713.720.91.82.64.23.34.45.2
Columbus30.328.426.645.645.244.117.518.619.63.84.65.52.93.24.2
Charlotte32.328.423.843.241.738.717.220.223.04.06.38.53.23.36.1
New Orleans24.024.924.538.039.538.122.321.721.17.97.28.57.86.77.9
Salt Lake City30.626.029.246.044.943.616.920.518.03.44.74.83.13.94.4
Greensboro36.134.330.044.945.244.313.614.716.93.03.64.62.32.24.3
Austin34.929.224.542.942.038.615.419.222.53.85.78.33.03.96.1
Nashville27.626.623.941.641.538.619.820.723.06.16.98.84.84.35.7
Providence39.536.932.241.640.739.913.014.316.33.14.25.42.83.86.2
Raleigh33.330.724.744.544.540.415.617.622.33.74.77.42.92.55.2
Hartford34.431.629.942.241.041.016.619.119.33.95.55.32.92.84.5
Buffalo32.934.132.543.643.443.817.816.616.83.63.53.72.12.43.2
Memphis26.225.522.943.345.443.422.021.323.24.54.56.13.93.34.4
West Palm Beach34.530.425.241.942.239.416.519.322.13.44.76.83.73.46.5
Jacksonville27.725.122.243.341.938.819.922.824.45.16.68.74.03.65.9
Rochester35.134.033.642.243.142.715.815.615.64.04.54.62.82.83.6
Grand Rapids40.138.434.944.443.642.911.312.214.82.43.34.11.92.53.3
Oklahoma City31.831.130.242.344.343.418.917.518.34.04.34.43.02.83.7
Louisville25.526.826.343.447.046.022.019.119.85.33.94.23.73.23.6
49 MSAs27.926.223.537.737.435.920.021.122.27.17.99.07.47.49.5

Departure Time

The question on departure time for the commute trip was added in 1990, so trend analysis is limited. For both the U.S. as a whole and the 49 metro areas, the highest percent of workers leave between 7:00 and 7:59 a.m. (see Exhibit 3.7). With the apparent shift to longer commutes in the large MSAs we expected to see evidence of peak spreading. There is a slight shift to earlier departures from 1990 to 2000 for the nation as a whole, although the 49 largest MSAs had slightly later departure times than the rest of the nation (see Exhibit 3.8).

Exhibit 3.7 Departure Times to work - US and Large MSA Comparison - Percent of Workers: 2000

Departure time49 MSAsNation
5:00 a.m. to 6:59 a.m.25.626.2
7:00 a.m. to 7:59 a.m.29.229.9
8:00 a.m. to 8:59 a.m.17.215.5
9:00 a.m. to 9:59 a.m.65.3
All other departures18.919.8
Worked at home3.23.3

Exhibit 3.8 Departure Time to Work: 1990 - 2000

Exhibit 3.8: There is a slight shift to earlier departures from 1990 to 2000 for the nation as a whole, although the 49 largest MSAs had slightly later departure times than the rest of the nation.

The percentage of workers beginning their commute in each time period is shown in Exhibits 3.9 and 3.10 for the 49 major MSAs. The percent of workers leaving between 7:00 and 8:29 a.m. hovers around forty percent in the major metro areas-very little shift from the distribution in 1990. Some metro areas show later departure times than others. New York, Miami and West Palm Beach stand out as those with departure times later than the rest.

Not all workers are employed weekdays nine to five, and areas with different dominant employment sectors will see different distributions in departure times. For instance areas with high manufacturing employment and greater numbers of 24- hour shift coverage have different distribution than areas with greater focus on the service industry. Las Vegas exemplifies an extreme position, since the gambling/entertainment industry functions at all hours, leaving Las Vegas with the highest proportion (over 30 percent) of workers departing at times other than 5 - 9:59 a.m. Individual MSAs with shifting employment basis can assess the impact on transit planning and travel demand forecasting that changes in dominant employment sector may have.

Exhibit 3.9 Departure Time to Work - Percent of Workers: 1990

MSATotal, Did Not Work at Home 5:00 AM - 6:59 AM 7:00 AM - 8:29 AM 8:30 AM - 9:59 AM All Other Departures
New York9,051,85820.347.515.916.3
Los Angeles6,622,94130.039.511.519.0
Chicago3,838,74529.340.610.119.9
Washington, DC3,514,39528.343.812.515.4
San Francisco3,089,26824.943.913.118.1
Philadelphia2,722,10722.846.312.818.2
Boston2,691,27823.845.812.617.8
Detroit2,253,59425.739.511.723.2
Dallas1,991,67525.447.39.917.4
Houston1,732,04330.843.59.216.5
Atlanta1,508,73424.846.911.616.7
Miami1,446,93622.046.314.617.2
Seattle1,446,17532.037.810.319.9
Phoenix1,005,94631.638.38.621.5
Minneapolis1,298,29526.943.69.620.0
Cleveland1,256,55024.442.811.521.3
San Diego1,169,16132.938.710.517.8
St. Louis1,137,94629.141.79.319.9
Denver988,83228.943.49.618.2
Tampa893,94224.645.511.618.4
Pittsburgh1,002,08125.342.011.820.9
Portland828,15626.843.79.719.8
Cincinnati825,66625.542.810.521.1
Sacramento664,60727.943.010.318.8
Kansas City756,93526.346.58.818.4
Milwaukee755,42129.539.68.522.5
Orlando602,10026.544.410.418.7
Indianapolis666,68327.543.98.619.9
San Antonio564,92127.244.79.318.8
Norfolk682,93133.937.810.218.2
Las Vegas409,55726.233.610.130.1
Columbus647,89424.844.310.320.6
Charlotte593,46627.344.88.919.0
New Orleans522,52228.942.211.018.0
Salt Lake City464,49225.642.510.621.3
Greensboro539,04727.945.18.618.4
Austin418,60721.348.711.218.8
Nashville482,97531.341.88.218.8
Providence531,46025.544.311.219.1
Raleigh450,72321.251.910.716.2
Hartford585,94226.745.610.717.0
Buffalo521,31421.343.113.122.5
Memphis451,64426.244.58.620.6
West Palm Beach370,09020.648.515.015.8
Jacksonville432,36128.443.410.317.9
Rochester497,13426.443.011.119.5
Grand Rapids429,76427.939.19.523.5
Oklahoma City438,86122.547.210.519.9
Louisville434,60824.742.410.822.2

Exhibit 3.10 Departure Time to Work - Percent of Workers: 2000

MSATotal, Did Not Work at Home 5:00 AM - 6:59 AM 7:00 AM - 8:29 AM 8:30 AM - 9:59 AM All Other Departures
New York9,042,06821.245.216.217.5
Los Angeles6,526,16827.738.812.421.1
Chicago4,096,43729.139.510.420.9
Washington, DC3,704,99327.442.513.816.3
San Francisco3,292,67723.342.715.518.5
Philadelphia2,735,58824.144.112.619.2
Boston2,807,06324.944.412.718.0
Detroit2,425,77626.039.411.523.1
Dallas2,452,24827.344.610.717.5
Houston2,029,96331.841.59.717.0
Atlanta1,988,66927.443.212.117.3
Miami1,597,20822.344.614.418.6
Seattle1,701,61930.336.412.121.2
Phoenix1,412,73532.635.99.022.4
Minneapolis1,534,93928.441.410.419.8
Cleveland1,339,15624.942.011.421.8
San Diego1,242,32132.037.711.518.9
St. Louis1,203,67229.240.99.520.5
Denver1,282,54029.841.810.717.6
Tampa1,030,61225.143.512.119.2
Pittsburgh1,031,61227.140.311.521.1
Portland1,054,29428.140.710.420.7
Cincinnati925,72626.141.810.521.6
Sacramento767,71027.841.711.119.4
Kansas City851,19727.044.89.718.5
Milwaukee796,07629.239.98.522.4
Orlando763,73624.743.111.620.6
Indianapolis772,34227.942.58.920.8
San Antonio680,73927.443.49.419.8
Norfolk740,05932.538.510.218.8
Las Vegas686,05927.832.49.630.3
Columbus754,87624.642.711.421.4
Charlotte730,64727.644.89.318.2
New Orleans556,67228.941.310.819.0
Salt Lake City618,44326.738.611.723.0
Greensboro604,02726.945.68.718.7
Austin626,27824.445.512.617.6
Nashville601,23431.740.38.719.3
Providence543,92125.841.911.420.9
Raleigh596,10023.048.512.316.1
Hartford558,68425.145.811.118.0
Buffalo509,45722.642.912.222.2
Memphis499,98227.442.68.921.1
West Palm Beach456,11821.347.214.816.7
Jacksonville515,65129.141.510.419.0
Rochester501,90125.942.611.120.4
Grand Rapids515,49526.339.09.225.4
Oklahoma City494,81823.445.510.520.6
Louisville481,23424.141.711.322.9
Updated: 04/28/2011
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