By Cyril Dela Rosa
Across the United States, the average work commute time greatly fluctuates. While the average Illinois work commute takes about 29.2 minutes -- which ranks sixth-highest nationally, according to a 2019 US Census study -- a resident of South Dakota is estimated to complete their commute within 17.2 minutes (the lowest national average).
Data shows the East and West coasts of the contiguous United States present larger mean commutes than Midwest and Mountain states.
Why, then, is the average travel time longer in certain states than others? At a first glance, this map demonstrates that longer daily commutes strongly relate with the population size of metropolitan areas found in their respective state. Chicago is the third-largest city (2.7 million people) and metropolitan area (9.4 million) in the United States, which corresponds with a relatively high average commute time.
However, a further assessment of urban development trends within these metropolitan areas is necessary to understand why commute times are rising. A report published by the Minnesota Department of Transportation found that the increase in average commute times within the Twin Cities area over the past three decades is heavily linked to increased traffic congestion.
Additionally, while urban sprawl is reported to have a negligible relationship with the average commute time, the growth in average wages of commuters over time is found to correlate with longer average commute durations, studies show. In other words, commuters are more likely to take longer daily trips to work as a means to work in a higher-paying job found further away.