Americans Rising Earlier, Traveling Longer to Work

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A new report says more Americans are leaving for work between 5 a.m. and 6:30 a.m. and are commuting for longer periods of time. Commuters talk about more time spent on the road, as we continue our series: America at 300 million.


Alan Pisarski, author of report about commuting released this week by the Transportation Research Board

Lauren Young, personal business editor at Business Week

Greg Rosoff, works at the U.S. Mint; met future wife on commuter train; his average commute takes four hours total each day

As the Population Grows, So Do Commute Times

In Detail

• The number of solo drivers grew by 13 million since the 1990s.

• The number of people commuting more than 60 minutes grew by nearly 50 percent between 1990 and 2000

• Men are more likely to be "early-morning" commuters, leaving from midnight to 7:30 a.m. Women are more likely to commute after 7:30 a.m.

• More Americans commute from the city to the suburbs than from the suburbs to the city, making up about 9 percent of commutes. From 1990 to 2000, the increase of those commuting from the city to the suburbs jumped by 20 percent.

Photo of cars backed up in traffic.

A new report shows that more people are leaving their homes before 6 a.m. to arrive for a work in time, and the number of American telecommuters is also on the rise. hide caption

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The Transportation Research Board released a study this week based on U.S. Census data, which shows Americans are increasingly working outside their county of residence. The study reports "extreme" commutes of 60 minutes climbing by 50 percent between 1990 and 2000.

When it comes to the areas with the longest commutes, there are few real surprises — New York, Chicago and Los Angeles top the list. The Washington, D.C., metro area, however, is a sort of first of worst commutes, with the largest number of commutes that take 90 minutes or more. The study shows a rising number of people leaving their homes at 5 to 6:30 a.m., compared to previous decades.

In 1990, New York was the only state with 10 percent of its commuters traveling an hour to the city. By 2000, New Jersey, Maryland and Illinois also had 10 percent of commuters traveling for 60 minutes to work.

Another factor examined by the study is how people are getting to work. New York commuters by far used public transportation the most, where cities like Philadelphia found an increase in solo drivers.

Among the largest cities:

New York — 38.3 minutes average. 54.6 percent took public transportation; 23.6 percent drove alone (decreased 1.3 percent from 2000 to 2005).

Chicago — 33.2 minutes average. 53.4 percent drove alone (increased 2.3 percent); 25.3 percent took public transportation.

Newark, N.J. — 31.5 minutes average. 47.4 percent drove alone (increased 2.1 percent); 28.4 percent took public transportation.

Riverside, Calif. — 31.2 minutes average. 73.1 percent drove alone (increased 1 percent); 18.2 percent carpooled (negligible change).

Philadelphia — 29.4 minutes average. 51.4 percent drove alone (increased 2.2 percent); 25.2 percent took public transportation.

Los Angeles — 29 minutes average. 67.8 percent drove alone (increased 2.1 percent); 11.7 percent carpooled (decreased 3.1 percent)

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