- The average national commute time drops 4%, or 1.2 minutes, in 2022 compared to 2019.
- With 3 million less remote workers in 2022 compared to 2021, there is a 0.8 minute increase in the average commute time between those two years.
- New York City commuters spend the most amount of time on their way to work in 2022, 40.7 minutes, slowly approaching the pre-pandemic all-time high record of 41.7 minutes.
- Wichita, KS takes the lead as the city with the best commute, with only 18.5 minutes for a one-way trip.
- Western cities saw the highest decrease in commute time from 2019 to 2022, with an average of 5 minutes less spent on a one-way commute.
- On the other hand, Northeastern cities only saw an average of 1.5 minutes less spent on a one-way commute compared to pre-pandemic levels.
Commuting has seen some changes over the years but being able to significantly reduce their commute time remains an issue many workers face daily. While remote work has definitely left its mark on commuting, as many people gave up the idea of going to work completely when they made a switch from an office to an at-home workspace during the pandemic, others are either required or simply prefer to embrace the return to the office initiative that started happening once the major threats of the COVID-19 pandemic began to diminish.
So, what are the current commute times across the U.S. and how do they compare to pre-pandemic levels? To get a better understanding of how commuting changed, we looked at the most recent data from the U.S. Census to compare travel time to work in 2022 with 2019.
The Average U.S. Commute Time Drops 1.2 Minutes Compared to 2019
According to the U.S. Census, in 2019, Americans spent almost an hour per day (55.2 minutes), commuting to and from work. In 2022, the average commute time dropped to 52.8 minutes per day, or 26.4 minutes each way. This indicates a 4% drop in the national average, which is about 10 hours less per year spent commuting to and from work. However, compared to 2021, there has actually been an increase in the average commute time. In 2021, workers spent about 25.6 minutes on a one-way commute (51.2 minutes per day). The average commute time in 2021 was at the same level as in 2011, while the level it is at now matches that of 2015. The increase in commute time that in the past happened over four years, has now happened in one year.
The rapid changes seen in the time spent traveling to and from work are indirectly proportional to the number of remote workers. In other words, the higher the number of remote workers, the lower the amount of time spent commuting. In 2019, there were about 6% remote workers in the U.S. (approx. 9 million), while in 2022, remote represented 15% of the national workforce (approx. 24 million). However, when looking at the number of remote workers in 2022 compared to 2021, there are 3 million less people working from home given the increasing number of employers mandating return to office policies.
The decrease in the number of remote workers from 2021 to 2022 thus led to an increase in the national average commute time, as the overall percentage of commuters went from 82% to 85% in just one year. While this percentage is still significantly less than it was in 2019, where commuters made up 94% of the entire workforce, the impact on commuting is very much noticeable.
New York City on a Fast Drive to Reaching Its Pre-Pandemic Commute Time
When looking at the cities with the longest commute times across the U.S. in 2022, New York City takes the lead with 40.7 minutes spent on a one-way trip, only a minute less than it was in 2019. Commuting here is significantly more time-consuming than in the other major U.S. cities, with only four other cities seeing one-way commute times higher than 30 minutes. These include Chicago, IL with 33.5 minutes, Philadelphia, PA with 31.5, Boston, MA with 30.5 and Los Angeles, CA and Washington, DC battling each other for 5th place with 30.2 and 30.1 minutes, respectively. The other four cities in the top deal with a one-way commute time falling between 29.6 and 29 minutes, with Miami falling in 10th place.
The best commute times are mostly seen in cities across the Midwest. Wichita, KS had the shortest commute time in 2022, with 18.5 minutes one-way. Omaha, NE, from the same region, falls in third with 18.9 minutes, followed by Columbus, OH and Milwaukee, WI in fifth and sixth places, with one-way commute times of 21.5 and 21.7 minutes, respectively. The final city from the Midwest that had the best one-way commute is Kansas City, MO, with 21.8 minutes, which came in 8th place. In second place is Southern city Tulsa, OK with 18.5 minutes and Memphis, TN, also from the South, comes in fourth with 20.9 minutes. Raleigh, NC is the only other Southern city that made the top of best commute times, coming in 9th place with 21.9 minutes.
Top West Cities: Commute Time and Workforce Distribution
The West experienced some of the highest drops in commute time when compared to pre-pandemic levels. Commuters in San Francisco, CA saved about 5 minutes on a one-way commute in 2022, which is 15% less time spent on the road than in 2019, amounting to 43 hours saved that year. San Jose, CA falls in very close, with the same amount of time saved while commuting, having a much smaller percentage of remote workers than San Francisco, 20.5% and 32.5%, respectively.
In Oakland, CA, the increase in the number of remote workers by 23.9ppt from 2019 to 2022 led to a decrease of 9.6 minutes in a day’s commute, or 40 hours saved that year. While in 2019 commuters spent 34.4 minutes on a one-way commute, in 2022 they spent 29.6 minutes.
Top South Cities: Commute Time and Workforce Distribution
Commuting in the South was fairly decent even before the pandemic, so the increase in the number of remote workers only made it that much more manageable for commuters. In Austin, TX, the average commute time in 2022 was about 45 minutes per day compared to about 51 minutes in 2019. Last year, commuters were able to save 24 hours due to the shorter daily commute times. Given the fact that the number of remote workers tripled over the last three years, the 11% drop in commute time over the same period was to be expected.
Commuting in Baltimore, MD dropped by 2.7 minutes one-way from 2019 to 2022, allowing workers to spend 23 hours less on the road per year. In Raleigh, NC, the increase from 10.5% remote workers to 24.5% led to a decrease of 5 minutes in the daily commute time, with commuters spending 43.8 minutes on average going to and from work.
Top Northeast Cities: Commute Time and Workforce Distribution
In the Northeast, Philadelphia, PA saw the highest decrease in commute time due to the increase of 14.3ppt in the number of remote workers. From 34.3 minutes spent on a one-way commute in 2019, the time dropped to 31.5 minutes in 2022, allowing commuters to save an average of 23 hours while commuting per year. New Yorkers were quicker in getting to work by only 1 minute, allowing them to save only 8 hours that year.
In Boston, MA, despite the number of remote workers reaching 20.9% in 2022 from 4.1% in 2019, commuting didn’t see the same positive impact that other cities across the U.S. did. A one-day commute in Boston took 61 minutes, as opposed to 62.4 minutes in 2019, allowing them to save only 6 hours per year while traveling to and from work.
Top Midwest Cities: Commute Time and Workforce Distribution
Minneapolis, MN saw the highest decrease in commute time from all the cities in the Midwest. Following an increase in the remote workforce of 17.3ppt, commuters spent 2 minutes less on a one-way commute, amounting to 17 hours less per year spent going to and from work. In Chicago, IL, the roughly 79% of commuters spent 33.5 minutes on a one-way commute, 5% less than in 2019 when it took them about 35.4 minutes to get to work. Columbus, OH, with the smallest share of remote workers from the three (18.2%), experienced a 3-minute daily drop in commute time, amounting to 13 hours spared from staying on the road in 2022.
Remote Work, Commuting and the Future of Work
Many considered remote and flexible work to be the new normal for the past three years following the pandemic but the need for networking and in-person collaboration at work are slowly pulling workers back to the office. Whether in the form of traditional offices or coworking spaces, workers are giving up remote work for the workspace offered by these establishments. While this doesn’t mean that working remotely is not going to be a possibility in the future, it will most likely not replace in-office work. As such, commuting will continue to be something that workers will have to face on a daily basis, adjusting their schedules accordingly to get to work on time. And with more and more workers making the switch from remote work back to the office, commute times are expected to continue to rise to pre-pandemic levels and even surpass them given the upward trend seen over the last decade.
- For this analysis, we looked at data from the U.S. Census Bureau from the American Community Survey 1Y Estimates for 2019, 2021 and 2022.
- The analysis includes the top 50 largest U.S. cities by population.
- Travel time to work refers to the total number of minutes that it usually takes a worker to get from home to work (one way) each day during the reference week, for all means of transportation.
- The term “commuters” refers to workers 16 and over who do not work at home.
- To determine the time saved when commuting in a year, we estimated an average number of 250 working days in a year, with the assumption that travel time to and from work are equal.
- The change in the number of work from home workers was calculated as a difference in their number and as a growth rate (%). The percent change from year to year was calculated in percentage points (ppt).
2022 vs. 2019 Commute Times & Remote Workforce Distribution in the 50 Largest U.S. Cities
The table below presents commute time and remote workforce data on all 50 U.S cities included in this analysis, in decreasing order of commute time saved in 2022 compared to 2019.
Fair Use & Redistribution
Feel free you to reuse, host or repost the images in this article. When doing so, we only ask that you provide attribution to the authors by linking to YardiKube.com or this page, so that your readers can learn more about this project, the research behind it and its methodology.
Yardi Kube is an all-in-one coworking space management platform that helps businesses manage all aspects of flexible workspaces, from meeting room and space booking to lead generation, payment processing and more. For more information, click below to schedule a demo.