Commutes are getting longer, study says

Traffic moves slowly southbound on the 5 Freeway between the 710 and 605 freeways in February.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Nationwide, commutes are getting longer. But in two Southern California regions, travel time to work may actually have improved.

Between 2000 and 2012, the number of jobs within the typical commute distance decreased by 7% in the U.S., according to a new Brookings Institute study.

The report focused on job proximity, or the number of jobs that people live close to. Only 29 of the nation’s largest 96 metro areas experienced net job gains and improved employment proximity over those 12 years.

Bucking the trend: the Inland Empire and Ventura County.


The Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario area had a 9.8% increase in job proximity with 126,418 jobs in 2012, up from 115,127 in 2000. The average commute distance was 9.1 miles.

Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura was right behind, with a 9.5% increase, adding about 4,000 jobs since 2000 for a total of 46,806 in 2012. A typical commute there was 5.3 miles.

The South Texas region of McAllen-Edinburg-Mission topped the list with a 57.5% increase in jobs, from 31,390 in 2000 to 49,434 in 2012.

The Cleveland, Ohio; Detroit, Mich.; and Dayton, Ohio, metropolitan areas had the largest decreases in job proximity. All three regions saw the average number of nearby jobs decrease since 2000.


The report used U.S. Census data to determine job proximity.

Though proximity does not necessarily guarantee employment, people who live closer to jobs are more likely to work, and also spend less time searching for jobs, according to the study.

City residents saw a 3% decrease in jobs within a typical commute distance, while suburban residents saw a 7% decrease.

This affects poor and minority suburban residents, who moved toward the suburbs in the 2000s and have lower employment rates and wage levels than white or residents who aren’t poor.


Additional constraints include transportation options or access to services like child care, which can make a job seeker’s search area smaller, according to the study.

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