The average American has added about two minutes to their one-way commute since 2009, the data shows. That may not sound like a lot, but those numbers add up: The typical commuter now spends 20 more minutes a week commuting than they did a decade ago. Over the course of a year, it works out to about 17 additional hours commuting.
Relative to 1980, the picture is even more grim: Since then, American workers have lost nearly an hour a week to their commutes, the equivalent of one full-time workweek over the course of a year. All told, the average American worker spent 225 hours, or well over nine full calendar days, commuting in 2018.
The shift is being driven in large part by an increase in the share of workers with long commutes. In 2010, about 8 percent of workers had a one-way commute of 60 minutes or more.
By 2018, that share had edged up to nearly 10 percent. As of 2018, there were 4.3 million workers with commutes of 90 minutes or more, up from 3.3 million in 2010.
Rising commute times reflect the challenges of life in many metropolitan areas where new housing isn’t being built fast enough. As a result, many workers are forced out to far-flung suburbs and exurban areas in search of affordable homes.
Transit and infrastructure woes are another factor. Many metropolitan areas put off necessary spending on roads, bridges and public transit as their populations soared, creating congestion as people try to get to and from work. In Washington, D.C., daily Metro ridership has fallen by 17 percent since 2008 while the population of the greater metro region has grown by several hundred thousand, resulting in one of the worst commutes in the nation.
Research has shown that longer commutes are bad for workers, their families, their employers and the economy as a whole. People with longer commutes tend to be less physically active, with higher rates of obesity and high blood pressure as a result. Longer commutes are associated with higher rates of divorce, and the children of fathers with longer commutes tend to have more social and emotional problems.