Long distance commuting in Minnesota


John Adams , Melissa Loughlin , Elvin Wyly

July 1994

Report no. Mn/DOT 1994-24

Workers making long daily commutes in the 1950s were understood as those best able to afford amenities normally available outside the "urban core"-that is, the downtown central business district (CBD) plus adjacent transportation-industrial zones and high density residential neighborhoods within "central cities" such as Minneapolis and St. Paul. This report examines characteristics of Minnesota workers residing in Minnesota's metropolitan and non-metropolitan areas who made long duration (more than 30 minutes one way) commutes in 1990, concluding that early metropolitan-based models today lack much if not all of their former applicability.

Minnesota's average commute of 19.1 minutes fell below the national average of 19.7, but more than 450,000 Minnesota workers spent more than 30 minutes commuting each way. Long duration work journeys were not restricted to the stereotypical upper income suburban family. In all geographic categories, the largest group of long duration commuters came from two person households, whose commuting may reflect compromises between two job locations.

In a five county "exurban" (i.e., beyond continuously built-up suburban areas) study area between Minneapolis and St. Cloud, average auto commuting time was the state's highest, at nearly 26 minutes. Blue collar workers reported commuting times longer than professionals. Findings have implications for policy proposals such as highway improvements, toll roads, or new energy taxes.

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