Public Transit Commutes Double, Triple Driving Time in CT Cities

People who take public transportation to get to work in the Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk area will have a commute nearly three times longer than those who drive to work.  In New Haven, the commute via public transportation is twice as long. Data compiled by Governing magazine indicate that across the nation’s largest metropolitan areas, public transportation riders spend significantly longer traveling to work than those who drive.  Data was compiled for the 25 largest metro areas, including New Haven-Milford and Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk.

Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk area public transportation commuters spend an average of 69.2 minutes traveling to work. By comparison, it takes those who drive 24.9 minutes.  The 44,742 estimated public transportation commuters account for 10 percent of commuters, according to the data.

New Haven-Milford area public transportation commuters spend an average of 48.4 minutes traveling to work. By comparison, it takes those who drive alone 23.9 minutes.  The 17,504 estimated public transportation commuters account for 4 percent of all commuters.

In nearly every metro area, driving to work remains far quicker than using a bus or train, taking less than half as long in some places.  Across the country, Governing reports, transit systems are seeking to attract new customers as the latest national statistics show stagnant ridership. Cutting down on commute times represents an opportunity to serve more riders who otherwise have a choice in how to get to work.

“Operating speed is going to be important for customers, so if they want to compete in that market, they need to be more competitive,” says Steven Polzin of the Center for Urban Transportation Research. “Time is important to folks across the full economic spectrum.”

Governing compiled the most recent Census survey data measuring total commute times, including travel to stations and the time spent waiting for buses or trains. In the 25 metro areas where public transportation accounts for the largest share of all commuting, riders reported commute times an average of 1.9 times greater than those who drove alone. Similar gaps exist in regions where public transportation isn’t as prevalent.

A metro area’s overall commute times partly reflect its different types of transit. Commuter rail passengers spend an average of 69 minutes traveling to work, far longer than those taking bus or light rail. Accordingly, areas relying more on heavy rail, like Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, report lengthier commutes overall, Governing points out.

On average, the latest Census suggest Americans who drive alone spend an average of nearly 25 minutes traveling to work. The national average for bus commuters is 45 minutes, while those who ride subways or streetcars spend an average of 47 minutes traveling to work. For those who primarily walk to work, commute times average only 12 minutes.

College towns are about the only areas where public transportation commute times mirror those for auto commuters, according to the data compiled by Governing.