Commute Time

Percentage of commuters by travel time to work, by county, 2011-2016 five-year estimates

Source: US Census Bureau, American Community Survey, Table B08303

Percentage of commutes by travel time to work, Portland MSA, 2016 one-year estimates

Source: US Census Bureau, American Community Survey, Table B08303

Why is this important?

Commute time measures the combined effects of several factors, including how close people live to their jobs and how much mobility the transport system provides. Lower commute times indicate that people are living closer to work and/or that the transportation system provides quality access and mobility. Commute times are influenced by various factors, including a personal preference for a specific residential location, availability of affordable housing within proximity of jobs, and availability of transportation modes [i]. Within a household with more than one worker, commute times can vary.

As housing and transportation are the two largest expenditures for the average household, availability of affordable, quality housing options within proximity to jobs or access to jobs are critical elements of household stability and wealth-creation [ii]. Lower income households tend to spend higher proportions of their income on transportation and housing costs combined [iii], and commuting time has emerged as the single strongest factor in the odds of escaping poverty [iiii]. Housing’s proximity to jobs can also affect the employment outcomes of residents; people who live closer to jobs are more likely to work, face shorter job searches, and have shorter spells of unemployment [ii].


[i] Montgomery, Melanie and Carey Curtis. “Housing Mobility and Location Choice: A Review of the Literature.” Urbanet: Impacts of Transit Led Development in a New Rail Corridor Working Paper No. 2.  (2006).

[ii] Haas, Peter M., Carrie Makarewicz, Albert Benedict. “Housing and Transportation Cost Trade-Offs and Burdens of Working Households in 28 Metros.” Center for Neighborhood Technology, 2006.

[iii] “Housing and Transportation Cost Study.” City of Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability, 2009.

[iv] Chetty, Raj, Nathaniel Hendren. “The Impacts of Neighborhoods on Intergenerational Mobility: Childhood Exposure Effects and County-Level Estimates.” Harvard University and the National Bureau of Economic Research, 2015.

[v] Kneebone, Elizabeth and Natalie Holmes. “The Growing Distance between People and Jobs in Metropolitan America.” Metropolitan Policy Program at Brookings. 2015.