What’s surprising is that the New York metro area ranks first and the perennial leader — Los Angeles — is nowhere to be found. This, however, is misleading. The Southern California megalopolis has grown so large that the Census Bureau breaks it into two. The sprawl of adjacent Riverside-San Bernadino-Ontario ranks eighth, just behind Atlanta and two spots below Chicago, for the amount of time it takes people to get to work.
More than 86 percent of people nationwide commute by car, and 76 percent of them do it alone, according to the data. Overall, the number of people who commute to work has more than doubled to more than 130 million since 1960.
The latest census data comes not from the 2010 count but from the annual tally known as the American Community Survey that was taken in 2009. Its release coincides with the annual Car-Free Day, which includes celebrations in 1,500 cities in 40 countries. Late Wednesday more than 11,000 Washington area drivers had pledged to go car-free or “car-lite” by taking public transit, carpooling, turning to bicycles or using their own feet, according to Commuter Connections, the regional transportation program coordinated by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments.
The commuting statistics reflect what is fairly obvious to most people who commute: As the nation becomes more populous, it takes longer to get to work. The survey found commuting time was up a fraction, more people were commuting alone by car and the number taking public transportation declined by a hair. Foreign-born commuters were more likely than others to take public transportation.
More than 4 percent of people worked at home, and almost 2 percent commuted by motorcycle, bicycle or taxicab.
Women tend to leave for work a few minutes later than men, the survey showed, and that may be correlated to the fact that they have shorter commutes. More people leave for work between 7 and 7:30 a.m. than at any other time.