The Best and Worst Cities for Commuting

Cameron Lee Cowan


Clever real estate has released a new study on commuting. We have the best and worst cities for commuting and I was really surprised about who topped the list for best. The worst, led by Houston, was no surprise.

Despite the big move to remote working, only 27% of Americans work from home and so traffic is just as bad as before. In some cases, traffic is worse as Americans continue to avoid public transportation after the pandemic. If it seems like traffic somehow got worse, it did.

One of the big talking points recently has been the lack of people commuting into downtowns and spending money which has left budget shortfalls for major cities and has left commercial real estate in peril. But given traffic patterns, I wonder how much of that is really true. Perhaps Americans are just spending less money with the inflation that has affected everything over the past few years.

If you work in-person or are thinking of taking an in-person job you might want to consider moving to these cities for an easier commute to work. Clever looked at the 50 most populous metro areas in the U.S. and found the 10 best commuter cities are:

Salt Lake City, Utah

Buffalo, New York

Raleigh, North Carolina

Hartford, Connecticut

Columbus, Ohio

Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Cleveland, Ohio

Cincinnati, Ohio

Minneapolis, Minnesota

Richmond, Virginia

Employees commuting to work in Salt Lake City spend about $582 on fuel a year — compared to Atlanta and Seattle, the most expensive cities in our study, where it costs workers a whopping $1,043. The average commute time in the U.S. is 234 hours per year — or 27 minutes one way — and Americans spend an average of $8,189 commuting every year.

We found the 10 worst commuter cities are:

Houston, Texas

Chicago, Illinois

Atlanta, Georgia

Los Angeles, California

Riverside, California

Detroit, Michigan

Miami, Florida

Dallas, Texas

New York, New York

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Clever rated cities/metro areas along the following metrics: Data points were attributed to metropolitan areas as much as possible. For some, data attributed to the largest city in the metropolitan area was used.

The metrics used are as follows:

Annual hours lost to traffic (15.4%)

Public transit score (11.5%)

Percentage of workers who work from home (11.5%)

Annual cost of commuting as a percentage of annual income (7.7%)

Annual fuel cost to commute (7.7%)

Annual maintenance cost to commute (7.7%)

Average annual insurance premium (7.7%)

Average time to work (minutes, one way) (7.7%)

Percentage of workers who commute by public transit, excluding taxis (7.7%)

Average distance of a commute in miles (3.8%)

Opportunity cost of commuting (3.8%)

Estimated average mph achieved during commute (3.8%)

Percentage of major road miles in “poor” condition (3.8%)

Here are a few other commuting facts that were also interesting from the Clever study.

Seattle has the highest average gas price per gallon ($5.10), while New Orleans has the lowest ($3.36).

The average commute time in the U.S. is 234 hours per year — or 27 minutes one way — and Americans spend an average of $8,189 commuting yearly. That’s a 2.1% decrease in time and a 3.3% decrease in cost from the 239 hours and $8,466 spent on their commute in 2022.

Salt Lake City is the №1 city for commuters. Residents spend just 23 minutes one way and $6,527 on their annual commute.

Buffalo, New York, is the most affordable city for commuting, while Miami is the most expensive.

Buffalo has the shortest one-way commute (22 minutes), while New York City has the longest (37 minutes).

Buffalo and Memphis drivers lose the fewest annual hours to traffic at just eight, while drivers in Chicago lose the most time out of any city — 155 hours annually.

The worst city for commuting is Houston, where the average commuter spends $933 on fuel just to get to work every year.

New York City is the best city for public transportation with a transit score of 89 out of 100 and 27.8% of workers commuting via public transit.

The worst city for public transportation is Oklahoma City, with a transit score of 17.



Cameron Lee Cowan

Creative Director of The Cameron Journal. Culture, political commentary, and much more!