The daily commute is a challenge for anyone working in person these days, and residents in these cities suffer the longest and most congested treks of all.
While the work-from-home revolution has taken the country by storm over the past couple of years, many Americans are now returning to the office at least a few days a week. As a result, roads are getting more congested and public transportation more crowded during peak commute hours. Public transit use is up nearly 38% year over year as of May 2022; at the same time, overall U.S. driving mileage has started to top pre-pandemic levels. Needless to say, no matter how Americans are getting to work, their commute is as busy as ever.
These days, everyone’s commute is a challenge, but some cities have high traffic congestion, a sprawling urban footprint, or other characteristics that make traveling to work even longer and more difficult. Curious to see where residents face the most arduous treks to and from the office, the data scientists at Insurify, a platform to compare auto insurance quotes, turned to their database of over 4.6 million car insurance applications, as well as data from the U.S. Census Bureau and INRIX, to determine America’s worst cities for commuters in 2022.
National averages. Americans who do not work from home spend an average of 27.6 minutes commuting each way to work, and 9.8% of Americans report spending at least 60 minutes commuting each way. Americans also lose an average of 39 hours each year just from traffic congestion during peak commute times. 17.2% of U.S. drivers report at least one traffic violation on their driving record, and in 2022, the average Commute Difficulty Score is 21.9 out of 100.
The Bay Area: A commuter’s nightmare. While Southern California is commonly stereotyped as the nation’s most car-dependent and congested region, the state’s northern metropolis is actually home to the worst commutes. Four of the 10 worst cities for commuters are in California’s Bay Area, headlined by Antioch, a city northeast of Oakland, which boasts the second most difficult commute in the country, behind only New York City. Drivers there commute an average of 46.4 minutes each way to work, and 34.9% of the city’s residents travel for more than an hour in each direction. Both figures are the highest in the nation.
Hate the wait? Give Michigan a try. While drivers on both coasts spend hours in traffic, Michigan residents enjoy relatively pain-free daily commutes. In fact, every city in the state has a below-average Commute Difficulty Score. Michigan’s best city for commuters, Ann Arbor, has the second-easiest commutes in the country, with drivers spending only 19.7 minutes on average heading to or from work and only 11.1% of the city’s drivers reporting a traffic citation on record.
The data scientists at Insurify, an online insurance comparison tool, referred to both publicly accessible and proprietary data to identify the city with the worst commute in each state. They ranked cities’ commute difficulty based on a composite score of factors, including commute time, driver safety, and traffic congestion levels.
City-level data for average commute time and the share of residents whose commutes are 60 minutes or longer is from the U.S. Census Bureau’s most recent American Community Survey, which considered full-time workers over the age of 16 who do not work from home. Longer commute times and greater percentages of residents with 60+ minute commutes contributed to higher Commute Difficulty Scores for cities.
Insurify’s data science team derived driving infraction rates from its database of over 4.6 million car insurance applications. When applying for car insurance, drivers disclose their city and state of residence, in addition to any prior violations on their driving record. For each city, Insurify’s researchers calculated the numbers of drivers with at least one violation on their record and compared it against the overall driving population. Cities with higher rates of drivers with infractions on record received higher Commute Difficulty Scores.
To determine each city’s traffic congestion level, Insurify’s data scientists referred to data from INRIX’s most recent Global Traffic Scorecard. INRIX calculated city-level data on the total number of hours drivers lose in traffic congestion during peak commute periods compared to free-flow conditions. Greater delays due to congestion contributed to cities’ higher Commute Difficulty Scores.
The following states were excluded from this analysis due to insufficient municipal data: Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, New Jersey, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Vermont, West Virginia, and Wyoming.
The findings in this article represent statistical trends found in Insurify’s analysis of over 4.6 million car insurance applications. The findings of this study are not meant to imply the direction nor necessarily the existence of a causal relationship. Rather, this is a presentation of statistical correlations of public interest.
Which city has the worst commute in America?
Perhaps unsurprisingly, New York, New York, is the worst city for commuters in 2022. Residents of the city spend an average of 41.4 minutes commuting each way to work, and a whopping 26.9% of residents spend over 60 minutes traveling to or from the office.
The City with the Worst Commute in Every State (2022)
Commute Difficulty Score: 21.7 (42% worse than state average)
Mean travel time to work (minutes): 23.2
Commute Difficulty Score: 36.3 (36% worse than state average)
Chase Gardner is a data journalist at Insurify. He informs readers on major developments in the auto and home industries through research into driver behavior, homeownership tendencies, cost of living trends, and more. He received a bachelor’s degree with concentrations in Environmental & Urban Studies and Statistics from the University of Chicago. Chase’s work has been cited in MSN, Yahoo News, The Street, and dozens of local news outlets across the country.