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Grant Whittington headshot

Infographics: Commuting in the 30 Largest U.S. Cities


A recent report from the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute uncovered the “who, when, how and how time-consuming” aspects of commuting in the 30 largest U.S. cities. The study pulled data from the 2013 American Community Survey, an annual survey commandeered by the U.S. Census Bureau, to compare cities in commuting tendencies, including what percentage of people ride a bicycle to work and what city carpools the most.

Dr. Michael Sivak, a research professor in UMTRI's Human Factors Group, headed the project, which provides "a broad overview of commuting to work in the largest U.S. cities,” according to the final report. The information analyzed is for workers aged 16 and older.

The examined cities held a combined population of around 39.4 million in 2013, representing just 12.5 percent of the approximately 317 million people living in the United States two years ago.

The cities Sivak studied range in population from New York City’s 8.4 million to Las Vegas’ 603,000. The 30 cities span from 21 different states with California cities cracking the list four times, while Texas is the top state with five cities in the dataset.

To simplify the data completed by Sivak, TriplePundit used infographics designed on infogr.am to display the results. With each graph, we’ve taken the the top five and bottom five cities from each category in order to analyze the extremes of each topic.

Average worker age

The study found that the cities with the youngest median ages of workers were Boston (34.4 years), Washington, D.C., (36.5 years), and Austin, Texas, and Denver, Colorado (both 36.8 years). The cities with the oldest median ages of workers were Louisville, Kentucky, (41.7 years), Jacksonville, Florida, (41.5 years) and Las Vegas (41.4 years).

Interestingly enough, the average age for all U.S. workers (42.2 years) is older than the average worker from Louisville, Kentucky, the oldest city of the metropolitans studied.

Gender in the workerplace

Next, the study looked at the percentage of male workers holding jobs in the 30 largest cities in the country. Detroit (45.9 percent), Baltimore (46.9 percent) and Philadelphia (48 percent) had the lowest ratio of males working in the city, while Houston (56.2 percent), San Jose, California, (56.1 percent) and Dallas (56 percent) had the highest percentage of males.

In comparison, males constituted 52.9 percent of all workers in the United States as a whole.

Average income: Mapping inequality

The next chart is perhaps the most intriguing because of the polarizing numbers that separate the poor cities from the thriving ones.

Detroit ($22,888), El Paso, Texas, ($25,021) and San Antonio, Texas, ($27,500) find themselves on the wrong side of the median income earnings chart, ranking lowest among the 30 cities studied. Washington, D.C., ($52,310), San Francisco ($51,329) and Seattle ($46,125) all hold claim to the highest earning cities in the country.

Workers in the U.S. average $32,625 annually, a salary sandwiched between Charlotte, North Carolina, ($31,979) and Austin, Texas ($33,304).

Transportation: Access to a car

The smallest percentage of workers with no car available were in Fort Worth, Texas, and San Jose, California (1.8 percent each) and El Paso, Texas (2 percent). The cities with the largest percentage of workers who don’t have an available vehicle were in New York (46 percent), Washington, D.C., (27.7 percent) and Boston (21.9 percent). The workers least likely to have access to a car were more likely to live in a city that has an underground train system, such as a Metro or Subway.

Transportation: Driving alone

The cities where the workers drive alone the most were in Louisville, Kentucky (82.9 percent), Oklahoma City, Oklahoma (82.6 percent) and Jacksonville, Florida (81.4 percent), while the cities who drive to work solo least were New York (21.4 percent), Washington, D.C., (32.3 percent) and San Francisco (36.4 percent).

Residents of 19 of the 30 cities studied drove alone less than the U.S. average (76.4 percent).

Transportation: Carpooling

The lowest percentage of workers carpooling to work were in New York (4.9 percent), Washington, D.C., (5.3 percent) and Boston (5.4 percent). The largest percentages were in Memphis, Tennessee (12.4 percent), Houston (12.2 percent), and Las Vegas and Phoenix (12 percent each).

These numbers were lower than I had anticipated, but once again reflected the culture of workers living in cities where underground transportation is accessible. The percentage for United States’ workers carpooling was 9.4 percent.

Transportation: Commuting via public transit

This is one of the datasets that shows the starkest contrasts in the way workers commute to work. New York (56.7 percent), Washington, D.C., (38.5 percent) and Boston (33 percent) led the way in percentage of workers who use public transportation to get to work in the morning.

The United States average was 5.2 percent, while two cities on the list (Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and Fort Worth, Texas) didn’t even crack 1 percent of workers using public transportation as a means to get to work.

Transportation: Length of commute

The last piece that we wanted to analyze from the data Sivak collected was how time-consuming the average worker’s commute is to his/her job. The study found that Oklahoma City, Oklahoma (20.7 minutes), Columbus, Ohio (21.4 minutes) and Louisville, Kentucky (21.6 minutes) notched the lowest average time to get to work.

These workers are already getting their day started by the time New York (39.7 minutes), Chicago (33.7 minutes) and Philadelphia (32 minutes) workers even got to the office. The U.S. worker’s average commute took about 25.8 minutes, according to the study.

Image credits: 1) Kevin Utting-Flickr

All graphs were created by Grant Whittington on infogr.am

Grant Whittington headshotGrant Whittington

Based in Atlanta, GA, Grant is a nonprofit professional and freelance writer passionate about affordable housing and finding sustainable approaches to international development. A proud graduate of the University of Maryland, Grant spent four months post-grad living in Armenia where he worked for Habitat for Humanity and the World Food Programme. He enjoys playing trivia with friends but is still seeking his first victory - he ceaselessly blames his friends lack of preparation.

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