Census: Increase in CT drivers spending more than an hour to get to work

Editor’s Note: This is the first in an occasional series of stories exploring the latest numbers from the Census Bureau’s 2013-17 American Community Survey.

Commutes are getting longer and more Connecticut drivers are spending at least an hour to get to work — particularly in Fairfield County — new data from the U.S. Census Bureau show.

The average commuter in the U.S. spent 26.4 minutes traveling to work, according to census data covering a five-year period from 2013 to 2017. That’s an increase of one minute, from 25.4 minutes over the previous five-year period that ended in 2012.

Connecticut commutes are a bit shorter than the national average. The in-state travel time increased from 24.8 to 26 minutes. But in some parts of Connecticut, commutes are much longer than the state and national average.

The Census Bureau’s 2013-17 American Community Survey, released Thursday, covers a sweeping range of subject matter, using five years of data. The five-year survey can be compared to data sets with non-overlapping years, so in this case, we can compare the 2013-17 results to the 2008-2012 results.

When it comes to commuting, the survey makes clear there is a gender gap. Connecticut men have longer commutes, 28 minutes, compared with 24 minutes for women. Men are also more likely to use public transportation. Those patterns were true in 2012 as well.

In addition to average commute time, the Census bureau reports how many commuters traveled less than ten minutes, 10-15 minutes, and so on, in buckets up through 60-or-more minutes. This more granular grouping provides a picture of how that average has changed. There was a clear shift in this case: the number of people in every commute category shorter than 25 minutes decreased, while it increased for every category 25 minutes or above.

Most of the hour-or-more commuters live in Farifield County. Men there spend 32.9 minutes commuting on average — a whole five minutes longer than men nationwide. Fairfield County women had an average commute of 27.6, which is three minutes longer than women nationwide.

With an increasing number of Connecticut drivers spending more time on the roads commuting to work, there will likely be intense public interest if lawmakers once again consider tolls as a way to help close the state’s budget deficit during the upcoming legislative session.

A recent study found that Connecticut could raise $1 billion a year from tolls, with in-state traffic accounting for 44 percent of that revenue. Gov.-elect Ned Lamont has expressed support for limiting tolls to tractor-trailers, saying that even this limited approach could generate $360 million a year for the state’s coffers.

About Jake Kara

Jake is a former managing editor of The Ridgefield Press, a Hersam Acorn newspaper. He worked for the community newspaper chain as a reporter and editor for five years before joining the Mirror staff. He studied professional writing at Western Connecticut State University and is a graduate student in software engineering at Harvard Extension School.

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