The average resident of the Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land metro area spends 30.2 minutes commuting to work, longer than both the national average of 26.4 minutes and the statewide average of 26.3 minutes. Houston residents have the longest commute of any metro area in Texas.
Two of the main factors that determine commute time are the distance to be traveled and traffic congestion. In large, dense cities, commuters likely travel longer distances from home to work and do so at slower speeds.
In Houston, there are 19,010 people per square mile, a greater population density than the average across all U.S. metro areas of 6,088 Americans per square mile. The metro is comprised of 9,444 square miles of land and water, making it the ninth largest U.S. metropolitan area by land mass.
Metropolitan areas often consist of a core principal city with strong economic and social ties to their surrounding regions. In the Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land metro, Houston is the principal city and economic hub for adjacent municipalities and townships. The more concentrated a metropolitan area population is within its principal city, the less time residents spend commuting to work. Nationwide, 38.3% of metro area residents live within their principal city, and the remaining 61.7% in surrounding communities. An estimated 40.8% of Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land residents live in Houston, roughly similar to the national figure.
Denser cities often have comprehensive public transit systems that can connect residents to their jobs and in some cases shorten the commute to work. In Houston, 2.2% of residents commute via public transportation, a smaller share than the national public transit ridership of 5.2%. On average, those who take public transit in Houston take 19 minutes longer getting to work than those who drive. Nationwide, taking public transit adds 25 minutes to the average commute.
One indication of a good transit system is an economically diverse ridership. If ridership in a metropolitan area is primarily just low-income residents, the system is less likely to operate smoothly or be maintained well. In Houston, the typical public transit commuter earns $25,462 a year, roughly 63% of the $40,216 median earnings of commuters who drive to work alone in the metro area. Nationwide, the median earnings for public transit commuters is 89% that of workers who commute in a car, truck, or van alone.
Traffic is a complicated phenomenon, and there is little consensus among economists and transportation planners as to the best method for curbing traffic congestion. While new highways are often constructed or widened to decrease congestion, there is evidence that additional highway capacity increases traffic volume. The average Houston resident drives 36.9 miles a day, also among the most of any large city.
|Rank||Metro Area||Commute Time|
|8||Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell, GA||31.3|
|5||Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA||31.9|
|4||San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA||33.2|
|2||New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA||36.3|
|1||East Stroudsburg, PA||39.6|