Survey: Commuters' 'Sentence' Gets Longer, Costlier

Worst_commutes.jpg SIphotography/iStock/Thinkstock

When a prison inmate gets a commuted sentence, it typically means a faster road to freedom. Unfortunately for U.S. drivers feeling imprisoned on congested highways to and from work each day, a new study shows their commuting sentence is only getting longer — and there’s no time off for good behavior.

Related: Who Has the Worst Commute?

According to a survey by credit-card giant Citi Cards, the average American commuter spends 45 minutes in their car and $10 a day on their daily trek to and from the office. That’s about 200 hours and $2,600 a year. Seventy-nine percent of survey respondents reported that gas for their car is their greatest commuting cost. Meanwhile, 60 percent said their commuting costs had risen in the past five years.

Unsurprisingly, commuting costs are greater in the nation’s major urban centers, where the average round-trip expenditure is $12, the study shows. Motorists in Los Angeles pay the most per day, at $16, while Chicago and San Francisco residents pay the least among the big cities at $11.

But if time is money, New Yorkers have the most coming out of their pocket watches, doling out 73 minutes of their day on average, with 44 percent commuting for more than an hour. That’s compared with Chicago (64 minutes), San Francisco (56 minutes) and Los Angeles (55 minutes). Miami’s comparably low 49-minute commute was the best among the major metros polled.

Other findings of the Citi Cards survey showed that 79 percent of respondents spend most of their commuting money on gas; 85 percent spend their travel time listening to music; and 67 percent consider their commute the only “me time” they get all day.

It should be noted that there’s more than one way to quantify the misery drivers feel when staring at someone else’s brake lights for extended periods of time. Traffic-data provider INRIX each year calculates the worst overall congestion in U.S. cities.

So if you’re reading this in Los Angeles and saying to yourself, “Dude, there’s like no way Chicago traffic is worse than L.A.,” rest assured, your claim to crummy-commute fame is still the worst in the U.S. … except for Honolulu.

Yes, sorry L.A., but according to INRIX’s most recent calculations the Big Pineapple has moved into the No. 1 spot for worst traffic congestion, trumping the Big Orange (No. 2) as well as the Big Apple (No. 6) and the Big Onion (No. 11).

See if your hometown ranks among the top 25 most-congested cities, followed by the number of hours wasted in traffic annually, below (Note that INRIX rankings are based on an index and total hours does not necessarily correspond to a city’s ranking):

1. Honolulu, 69 hours

2. Los Angeles, 66

3. San Francisco, 59

4. Austin, Texas, 43

5. Bridgeport, Conn., 45

6. New York, 53

7. San Jose, Calif., 37

8. Seattle, 40

9. Boston, 40

10. Washington, D.C., 43

11. Chicago, 38

12. Portland, Ore., 29

13. Miami, 31

14. Philadelphia, 31

15. Houston, 29

16. San Diego, 26

17. Minneapolis, 25

18. Atlanta, 29

19. Denver, 25

20. Baltimore, 28

21. Dallas, 24

22. New Haven, Conn., 21

23. Tampa, Fla., 21

24. Charlotte, N.C., 21

25. Virginia Beach, Va., 19

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Former Assistant Managing Editor-News Matt Schmitz is a veteran Chicago journalist indulging his curiosity for all things auto while helping to inform car shoppers. Email Matt Schmitz

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