Top 5 Best & Worst Cities for Commuting

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As you may have heard, driving is actually not so awesome for you, in a purely physical sense. And driving long distances especially can take quite a toll on your body. But what does all that time behind the wheel do to your head?

According to our friend, science, quite a lot.

Several studies have linked longer times in the car with a battery of unfun symptoms, from headaches and high blood pressure to fatigue and problems concentrating.

More time on the road to work was associated in one 2001 study with less time for spouses, families, and personal hobbies—and increased feelings of being burdened.

And yet another review, this one released in 2017, found each extra minute on a work commute correlated with reduced job and leisure time satisfaction and an increase on strain and mental health, with an additional 20 minutes of commute time found tantamount to the impact of a 19% pay cut.

All told, it could lead to a pretty stressful time. But depending on where you live, it may be more—or much, much less—relevant.

Local commute times are about as different as the communities they spring from, with a number of factors weighing in on how much time an average worker spends behind the wheel.

Recently, some of those most impactful elements were analyzed by website realtor.com to calculate the country’s top 5 best and worst cities for commuting.

Included in the examination were the average commute times for drivers, those who carpooled, and public transit riders, as well as the average number of hours spent in traffic congestion in general. Realtor.com also added infrastructure considerations, including the percentage of roads listed in “good” or “fair” conditions in a given city, and the percentage of bridges considered “structurally deficient.”

All told, the calculations added up to quite a bumpy ride in some cities, while others seemed to foster much more smooth sailing.

Best Commutes

According to the numbers, these cities have some of the happiest Monday mornings you’ll find in the nation—at least, on the road.

5—Brownsville, TX

The Texas border town has the 5th best commute on the list, and also the nation’s 5th shortest, with an average of just 20.1 minutes, roundtrip, separating drivers from work and home.

The city can also boast beautiful roads that help keep its commuters happy, with between $8 million to $10 million spent annually on building new roads and traffic corridors between 2006 and 2012, according to realtor.com.

Looks like all that investment is paying off.

4—Reno, NV

RenoTahoe
Reno doesn't have much of a problem with traffic, which is perfect for people looking for a Vegas experience without it.

It may be the Biggest Little City in the World, but its traffic problems are even smaller than its nickname.

Reno’s average commute time clocked in at just 21.4 minutes roundtrip, with drivers there spending an enviable average of just 11 hours annually in traffic congestion.

Perhaps such a small amount of time spent on the roads is what’s helped them remain in such tip-top shape: 69% of roads in Reno were ranked as in “good” or “fair” condition, according to realtor.com.

3—Wichita, KS

The Midwestern metropolis may benefit pretty heavily from its active community: All told, the city has 115 miles of bike paths running through its veins.

But Wichita has also dedicated itself to increasing flow for cars on the road, with a $345 million project to expand one of its major arteries, Kellogg Avenue, announced in 2015.

All told, the transportation opportunities have helped lead to an average roundtrip commute time of 19.4 minutes and just 5.8 hours annually spent in traffic congestion.

2—Corpus Christi, TX

The coastal community boasts something that nearly any other city by the sea cannot: pretty fantastic commute times.

Even with its booming population, Corpus Christi’s drivers spend an average of just 20.4 minutes on their ways to and from work, and just 6.4 hours in traffic congestion each year.

According to realtor.com, public transit may actually be serving the public good in the Texas town, with more than 30 bus routes helping a large number of residents get to where they’re going without clogging up the roads.

1—Eugene, OR

turkey crossing the road in Eugene, Oregon.
Although traffic isn't much of a problem in Eugene, the scenic routes might lead to bird crossings.

Good public transportation? Better options for biking to work? Best commuting in the country? Eugene’s got it all.

The hometown of the University of Oregon consistently tops cycle-friendly lists and currently has the nation’s most cyclist commuters, according to realtor.com. Eugene also has a robust bus schedule helping to keep its roads free. This has led to an average commute time of 19.9 minutes roundtrip, and just 7.6 hours spent in traffic congestion annually.

The fact that the scenery is so beautiful is just an added bonus.

Worst Commutes

If you’re looking to shed some stress from your life, you may want to avoid working in these cities.

5—Boston, MA

Boston drivers have a reputation for rudeness, but maybe that’s just because they’re dealing with the mental aftershocks of miserable commutes.

The Bay State capital currently clocks in at an average of 30.6 minutes for a roundtrip work commute. But that could have something to do with all the construction.

Consistently long and snowy winters add up to a lot of wear and tear on a road, with the streets of Beantown seemingly always littered with bulldozers and steamrollers in the thawed-out months of the spring and summer. Yet each year, all that hard work gets undone once again by the cruel touch of cold, with just 19% of Boston roads considered in “good” or “fair” condition.

4—San Francisco, CA

traffic going into San Francisco
The birthplace of the rideshare industry is experiencing worse traffic, in part because of it.

The birthplace of the rideshare may be suffering under the burdens of the industry’s own success.

Drivers in the Northern California port town spend an agonizing 82.6 hours annually in stand-still traffic—a brutal statistic that has been blamed on everything from the city’s surging population to the heavy increase of rideshare vehicles on its roads.

The extra pressure has also put additional strain on the city’s public transportation system, and workers there spend an average of 32.1 minutes on their ways to and from the office. They may not have left their heart in San Francisco, but they’ve most likely left their sanity.

3—Washington, D.C.

Politics aren’t the only thing in Washington that face regular standstills.

With a huge portion of federal workers all heading to—and home from—the office en masse, the city suffers an average round-trip commute time of 34.4 minutes, with residents in its neighbor, Maryland, seeing nearly 47 hours annually in traffic congestion, a sad statistic that has much to do with D.C. traffic flow.

And despite being regularly tasked with carting around the president and any number of national dignitaries, the roads of the District are in dismal shape, with just 1% considered in “good” or “fair” condition, according to realtor.com.

2—Los Angeles, CA

The City of Angels is responsible for plenty of traffic hell.

Despite a reasonably short (compared to some others on this list) average roundtrip commute time of 29.6 minutes, residents there spend an insane 104.1 hours stuck in traffic each year.

That’s probably because Los Angeles is the country’s second-largest city, yet has some of its worst public transportation options, giving the nearly 19 million people living in its metropolitan area no choice but to hop in a car—at the same time as everyone else—when they want to go somewhere. According to realtor.com, only 8% of households in the city have no car at all.

1—New York City, NY

traffic in new york city
There's a reason so many people use public transportation in the Big Apple: The traffic is awful.

Maybe NYC is the City That Never Sleeps because its residents are always stuck on their way to or from work.

New York is not exactly known for its embrace of car culture, and there’s good reason why: The average cruising speed through midtown is less than 5 MPH with a single avenue alone taking as long as 15 minutes to cross.

That may be why the city has the country’s worst average commute time, coming in at 35.9 minutes. And anyone brave enough to drive there on a regular basis will see their mettle met with an average of 89.4 hours stuck in that car every year.

Which is probably why 5.5 million people daily opt for the city’s 665 miles of subway track, stretched out across 472 stations. But even that option has been extraordinarily problematic lately, with a major repair plan backfiring, leading to excruciating and seemingly never-ending delays in one of the world’s otherwise fastest-moving cities.

Maybe the chaos will help some savvy employees there convince their boss that more work from home days are needed.

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