Looking for the best community in the Twin cities for a relatively quick trip to work? Look no further than Richfield. Residents of this city, located at the heart of the Twin Cities' transit and highway system, get to work an average of two minutes faster than average state residents.
According to U.S. Census date released in December, Richfield MN residents had an average commute of 20.2 minutes, while Bloomington, St. Paul and Minneapolis trailed at 21 to 22 minutes. Commutes were much longer in outer-ring suburbs and bedroom communities such as Marine on St. Croix at 34.6 minutes, Chisago City at 35.1 minutes, Bethel at 37.7 minutes and Waverly at 39 minutes. Statewide, the average Minnesotan's commute to work takes 22.2 minutes.
The data come from 2005 to 2009 estimates from the American Community Survey (ACS), which measures population characteristics in detail. Some of the questions focus on how people get to work and how long it takes them to get there.
While it seems self-evident that commuting times are shortest when workers are near employment centers, the data indicates that other issues may complicate the commute. Minnesota communities with the longest commutes also had no public transit systems.
Lee Munnich, a transportation expert with the University of Minnesota's Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, said long commutes from the fringe of the metro area reflect people's search for affordable housing in the last 20 years. The farther people went, the cheaper houses got. But industry and employment didn't necessarily follow.
"It's part of the cost of housing moving further out," he said. "There is a lot of interest in having better transit services to communities, but there's no good path to doing that under our current system. And it may not be likely under current budgets."
Long commutes can take a toll on communities by eating up hours in a residents' day. By the time people get home, make dinner, maybe help the kids with their homework, they don't have time or energy to be involved in community activities like volunteering or getting involved with their childrens' schools. Commuters are also more likely to do most (if not all) of their shopping outside of their town, resulting in reduced revenue for the few retailers that do provide local employment opportunities.
Commuting complications are not much of an issue in outstate cities such as Duluth's average commute of 16.4 minutes, Ely's 13.5 minutes, Willmar's 12.9 minutes or Crookston's 10.7 minutes.