Average American Commute Climbs to Record Levels

October 10, 2019

In 2018 Americans spent an average of 27 minutes commuting one-way to work, an increase of about two minutes since 2009. While that may not sound too significant, it causes commuters to spend 20 more minutes per week on the road. That adds up to 17 additional hours a year compared to just a decade ago. In total, the average American worker spent 225 hours commuting in 2018, amounting to more than nine calendar days. 

Analysts attribute this recent shift to an increase of workers with very long commutes: nearly ten percent of commuters must travel an hour or more to get to the office. In fact, last year 4.3 million workers had commutes of 90 minutes or more, an increase of 1 million people since 2010. According to experts, a lack of affordable housing in cities has pushed many workers into suburban and exurban communities. As a result, many people must commute across increasingly long distances in order to get to city-based jobs, which is bad news for both employers and employees.

For instance, recent research shows that people with long commutes are more likely to experience harm to their physical and mental health. Along with increased rates of obesity and high blood pressure, long commutes are also associated with higher rates of divorce. What’s more, a Texas A&M study found that traffic congestion costs Americans $166 billion per year because of lost time and gas expenses. To combat these issues, many companies are allowing workers to telecommute from home rather than travel back and forth to the office. In 2018 more than five percent of the American workforce telecommuted, a percentage that has increased greatly over the last decade. With some studies showing that remote workers are more productive than their office-bound colleagues, companies could be more likely to let staffers telecommute in the future. 


  1. Why has the average American commute increased significantly over the last ten years? 
  2. Do you think more companies should allow workers to telecommute? Why or why not?

Source: Christopher Ingraham, “Nine Days on the Road. Average Commute Time Reached a New Record Last Year,” The Washington Post, October 7, 2019.