Philly’s #1, Unfortunately

The public transit app Moovit recently published its Global Cities Public Transit report for 2016. The report provides a summary of some key public transit statistics, such as average public transit commute time, average trip distance, and average wait time at a public transit station.

To my surprise, of the seven U.S. cities the report looked at, Philadelphia commuters had the longest average commute time at 93 minutes per day. Here is a listing of the daily commute times:

  1. Philadelphia: 93 minutes
  2. New York City: 87 minutes
  3. Washington, D.C.: 86 minutes
  4. Chicago: 86 minutes
  5. Los Angeles: 86 minutes
  6. Boston: 83 minutes
  7. San Francisco: 77 minutes

Philly was also ranked #1 for the percentage of people using public transit who have a total daily commute of more than two hours, at 35%, as well as for having the longest average walking distance per trip, at 3,550 feet, which was almost 15% further than #2 L.A.

There is also a global report. When looking at this report, Philly is second only to Toronto (96 minutes) in terms of having the longest commute, but it is number one worldwide in the percentage of people who have a total daily commute of more than two hours, as well as for having the longest average walking distance per trip,

Before seeing this report, if someone had asked me to rank the U.S. cities by public transit commute times, I would have ranked Philly and Chicago as having the shortest commute times.

This is just based on all the horror stories I hear about commuting in these other cities, especially Los Angeles. But I guess those stories are referring to private transit (i.e., driving yourself to work) times, and not public transit.

I’m not sure what the results are suggesting. Is it that people in Philly tend to live further away from the city than the residents of the other six cities? This is somewhat reflected in one of the charts showing that Philly commuters have the second longest one-way commute, at an average of 6.4 miles. Only L.A. is longer, at 6.9 miles for an average one-way commute on public transit.

Are the results suggesting that Philly’s public transit system is not as efficient at moving commuters from one location to another?

As I said, I’m not really sure, but I would think it’s not a good think to be ranked so “highly” in these reports.

I used public transportation for about four years, while going to grad school at Drexel University in Philadelphia. When it worked, it was great; unfortunately, its performance was not always reliable, and I can’t say I miss it.

For the past 30 years I have been spoiled with a commute of less than one mile, with just one traffic light. Most days, the total commute time from when I close my office door and open the front door of my house is about seven minutes, with half that time consisting of the walk from my third floor office to my car.

We purposely made living close to work a key consideration when we were searching for a house, and I am grateful for having such a short commute.

There are times, however, when I wonder what it would be like having 93 minutes each day that could be spent reading, listening to music, or just relaxing. I’m sure the reality is not as romantic as I imagine it to be.

This post has also made me curious what the average commute times are in these cities for driving; perhaps I’ll follow up in a later post with that info.

In the meantime, happy trails!

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Jim Borden

Accounting Prof. at Villanova; happily married for 30+ years; father of 3 outstanding young men; vegan; interests: fitness, creativity, education, blogging, social media.

2 thoughts on “Philly’s #1, Unfortunately”

  1. Hi Quincy! When we lived at the Lake, Bert had a 2-hour train commute (each way) to NYC for most of those years. While others would roll their eyes or groan at the mention of this, he loved it. He is an avid newspaper reader and it gave him that uninterrupted time every day. For a reader, that was a gift.
    Happy New Year to you & your family.


    1. Hi Eleanor! I think I would do a lot of reading as well if I had a commute like that. Did Bert’s newspaper reading time drop once his commute changed? Happy New Year to you and your family as well!



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