Super-Commuting Grows As Bosses Pull Back On Remote Work

A growing number of Americans are spending at least 90 minutes each way traveling to and from work, a practice known as “super-commuting

New data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows a growing number of Americans are spending at least 90 minutes each way traveling to and from work, a practice known as “super-commuting,” Apartment List says in a new report.

While the super-commuting trend is not new, the pandemic provided a “brief respite, eliminating commutes for many and reducing commute times for the rest as traffic abated. As the economy went remote, the number of super-commuters fell by over 1.5 million even as demand for suburban and exurban living remained strong,” the report’s economists say in the report.

A growing number of Americans are spending at least 90 minutes each way traveling to and from work, a practice known as “super-commuting"

The report says the city-to-suburb migration is more recently focused on homeownership and affordable cost-of-living options. That has encouraged families to head to the lower-density suburbs while keeping jobs in the central city.

The latest population estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau show suburbanization vividly, with high-growth counties forming visible rings around urban cores.

Wages Are Higher for Those Willing to Commute Long Distances

“The latest census data clearly show that workers are willing to trade lengthy commutes for higher incomes. In 2022, the median wage eclipses $50,000 for workers who spend at least one hour commuting, and is actually lowest for those who live within a quick 15-minute trip to work,” the Census Bureau report shows.

A growing number of Americans are spending at least 90 minutes each way traveling to and from work, a practice known as “super-commuting"

The nationwide super-commuting rate is 2.7 percent, but double-digit rates can be found along the peripheries of several large metros in California and Texas, as well as Seattle, New York, and Washington, D.C.

The Los Angeles region has more super-commuters than anywhere else. The nation’s highest super-commuter rate can be found in Palmdale, a 60-mile drive from Los Angeles, where 16.9 percent of all workers commute at least 90 minutes for work.

A growing number of Americans are spending at least 90 minutes each way traveling to and from work, a practice known as “super-commuting"

Super-Commuting and its Implications

Apartment List senior research associate Rob Warnock writes, “The relationship between where people live and where they work continues to evolve. A record number continue working from home; however, many employers appear to be shifting back to in-person or hybrid arrangements.

“This is putting more commuters on roadways and transitways daily – including more super-commuters – and resuming the pre-pandemic trend. Worsening commutes for drivers increase car-related expenses, impact physical health, and amplify the environmental consequences of suburban sprawl. Meanwhile, worsening commutes for transit riders harm quality-of-life in urban cities and disproportionately affect the car-free households that tend to be lower-income. Altogether, this trend may increase tension between workers and employers, as they negotiate working arrangements that affect their commutes.

“Housing is, of course, central to any attempts at cutting back on super-commuting. In cities and suburbs alike, dense construction and infill development (built at a rate that scales appropriately with job growth) can improve housing opportunities so that those who wish to live closer to work can afford to do so,” Warnock says.

 

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