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early morning commuter rail

How We Spend Our Time: Commuting

Millions of Americans are spending a good chunk of their day to commuting to work as they move farther away from big cities, which can have good jobs, but often really expensive housing.

The Los Angeles Times had this paragraph in a story about commuters back in December:

“Michael Perkins, a microbiologist heading to the Norwalk station, says he and his wife bought a 3,000-square-foot house in Riverside 10 years ago, with good schools for their three kids. It cost just $280,000. “There’s no way I could afford a house like that in L.A.,” he says, so for him, an 80-minute door-to-door commute is worth the trouble.” (The story also featured a lady with a crazy three hour commute each way).

Perkins isn’t alone. Riverside, California is one of the towns with the largest numbers of people making long commutes (and, according to the mattress company that used Census data to find that out, probably one of the places where people aren’t getting enough sleep.)

About 10 percent of workers in the Riverside-San Bernardino area are likely getting up before 5 a.m. to get to work, the mattress company, Best Mattress Band said, according to its research. That puts it in the top 10 communities nationally for most groggy commuters, and at the top of the list among the nation’s largest 50 metro areas.

(It’s also not a totally recent phenomenon – it’s a trend that’s been going on more than a decade. Consider this paragraph and quote from a Los Angeles Times story about El Centro, Calif., way back in 2005, that sounds similar to the Times story from this past December:

“The 230-mile round trip to San Diego and back takes about four hours, but here it’s easy to find a new home for less than $300,000. In San Diego, the median price of a resale home hit $580,000 in January…. Laura Ramirez, 32, moved to El Centro with her husband four years ago and commuted to her medical assistant job in San Diego.)

The place with the most Americans likely getting up before the sun to head out to work? That’s Elkhart-Goshen, Indiana, where 13.3 percent of workers say they leave home before 5 a.m., according to the Census’ American Community Survey.

List of Cities With Early Rise Commuters

Elkhart, which is near South Bend, and is known as the RV Capital of the World because so many motor home companies have their manufacturing plants there, also has seen people jump on the South Shore Line train or the I-90 toll road into Chicago, or northwest Indiana suburbs closer to Chicago, to work – a number that went up dramatically when Elkhart saw its industrial economy tank during the recession, giving it the highest unemployment rate in the country. The period the mattress company looked at went back to 2009, so it included the worst of the downturn, when people were traveling longer to get to work as jobs were more scarce.

The motorhome industry has come roaring back and the economy is doing well in northern Indiana now – but many workers there are heading into early-start jobs at some of those plants, so the early rising likely continues, even though some people seem to have ditched their super commutes with more work available locally. Some of the long commuting continues, because northern Indiana has the same dynamic as the central valley of California: extremely reasonable home prices, though there’s little need to go as far as Chicago now. This graphic shows most people there with long commutes are more likely heading to South Bend, or to jobs in nearby southwest Michigan, around Kalamazoo.

After Elkhart, Best Matress Brand found the communities with the most early rise commuters were Pascagoula, Miss.; El Centro, Calif.; Stockton-Lodi, Calif.; and Hammond, Louisiana.

RELATED: East Stroudsburg, Pa., Stockton, Calif., Modesto, Calif., have largest share of workers with 90 minute or longer commutes

ALSO: Supercommuters Exist Because Affordable Housing Doesn’t


About David Royse

David Royse
David Royse is the Editor-in-Chief of Ledetree.com. He has been a professional journalist for more than 20 years, including stints with The Associated Press and The News Service of Florida. He enjoys writing about health and medical science, and hopeful stories about scientific breakthroughs and new technology.

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