Raleigh area residents have the fifth longest commute in the nation, according to a new study of the nation’s 51 largest metropolitan areas.
The study, which was entitled “Driven Apart” and was funded by the Rockefeller Foundation, attributes Raleigh’s long commutes to its sprawling growth, which the study says increases the distance commuters travel between home and work. The report faulted the worst-ranked cities for increasing commute times through policies toward growth and mass transit.
“In the best performing cities – those that have achieved the shortest peak hour travel distances – such as Chicago, Portland and Sacramento, the typical traveler spends 40 fewer hours per year in peak hour travel than the average American,” the report stated. “In contrast, in the most sprawling metropolitan areas, such as Nashville, Indianapolis and Raleigh, the average resident spends as much as 240 hours per year in peak period travel because travel distances are so much greater. These data suggest that reducing average trip lengths is a key to reducing the burden of peak period travel. Over the past two decades, for example, Portland, Oregon, which has smart land use planning and has invested in alternative transportation, has seen its average trip lengths decline by 20 percent.”
The study did not necessarily rank rush-hour frustration. It rank cities by congestion but by time spent commuting. Large cities such as New York and Chicago actually had relatively low commute times.
Only Nashville, Oklahoma City, Birmingham. Ala., and Richmond, Va. – in that order – have longer peak-hour travel times than Raleigh.
Cities with linger commutes are costing residents, the study concluded: “If every one of the top 50 metro areas achieved the same level of peak hour travel distances as the best performing cities, their residents would drive about 40 billion fewer miles per year and use two billion fewer gallons of fuel, at a savings of $31 billion annually.”
The study is being touted by Capital Area Friends of Transit, which has begun a push to get voters to approve a sales tax to fund a rail system and other mass transit improvements.