Commuting, by and large, stinks. Congested roads can quickly turn what would be a scenic drive into a test of patience, and for those who use mass transit, the decision to put their trips in the hands of local public-transit systems can quickly go from freeing to aggravating thanks to late trains, crowded buses, or the bad behavior of fellow riders. But lengthy and burdensome commutes are awful for another reason, too—they disproportionately affect the poor, making it more difficult for them to reach and hold onto jobs.
A recent survey released by Citi found that on average, round trip commutes for those who were employed full time in the U.S. took about 45 minutes and costs around $12 per day. But for both cost and time there were enormous variations. In metro areas like New York and Chicago, average round-trip commute times were longer than an hour, and in Los Angeles the daily cost of commuting averaged about $14—that’s more than $3,500 each year. Nearly two-thirds of commuters said that the cost of getting to work had increased over the past five years, with about 30 percent saying that their cost of commuting had gone up substantially.
Most unfair of all: When it came to the most extreme commutes in terms of price, the survey found that about 11 percent of respondents who said they paid $21 or more for their daily commute made less than $35,000. For those in the highest income bracket—making $75,000 or more—only 8 percent had such pricey commutes.