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Oregon: Longer commutes, earlier hours

December 15, 2010

Earlier Departure, Longer Commute
by Gail Krumenauer
Oregon Employment Department,

Oregon workers spent a combined total of 35.2 million minutes traveling to their jobs in 2009. That’s down from 36.8 million minutes spent on the one-way trip to work in 2007. As employment levels dropped off from their peak in 2007, the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey numbers show a corresponding drop (-65,000) in the total number of workers commuting in Oregon between 2007 and 2009. The reduction in work travelers and aggregate time commuting generally hasn’t translated to a drop in travel time per commuter; the average minutes each Oregonian spent en route to work remained stable from 2007 to 2009. The only notable change in the post-recession commuter experience has been the mode of transportation used to get to work.

Earlier Departure, Longer Commute
In 2009, three-fourths of Oregon workers departed from home between midnight and 8:59 a.m. Within this commuter group, the largest share (18.5%) began their journey to work between 7:00 a.m. and 7:29 a.m. (Graph 1). The second most popular departure time for workers was between 7:30 a.m. and 7:59 a.m. (18.2%). Although they constitute over one third of morning work travelers, these two commuter groups did not experience the longest daily travel time. Oregonians departing for work between 7:30 a.m. and 7:59 a.m. actually experienced the second shortest average commute time, 19.1 minutes. Workers leaving later – between 8:30 a.m. and 8:59 a.m. – had the shortest travel time to work (17.1 minutes), while the early risers who began their commute between 5:00 a.m. and 5:29 a.m. traveled for the longest time on average (28.9 minutes).

Both the departure time and minutes spent traveling to work could be due to the distance traveled, the mode of transportation used, or the traffic congestion at the location within the state for the commuter group. Unfortunately, the Census survey does not provide insight for the reasons behind departure times or minutes spent traveling.

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