Reuters

The number of people who work in a different city than they live is growing rapidly.

Super-commuting is on the rise, according to a fascinating new report by Mitchell Moss and Carson Qing of NYU's Rudin Center for Transportation Policy and Management.

The report defines a "super-commuter" as someone who commutes from one metro to another by car, rail, bus, or air, identifying them with the U.S. Census OnTheMap tool. The report tracked the trends in the nation's ten largest metros with the exception of Washington, D.C., where data was unavailable.

Despite the image of high-priced executives and consultants zipping across the country on planes, the report finds that super-commuters tend to be younger (under 29) and middle class on average. And while they bring in a higher income, they should not be confused with elite business travelers, the report's authors write:

[T]he super-commuting population should not be perceived as elite business travelers, but rather more representative of middle-income individuals who may opt for more affordable housing and means of transportation, such as driving or intercity buses.

 

(Click the map to see a larger version)

In the map above (from the report), the star is the work destination point and the dots that surround the city represent a percentage of the workforce that lives outside the census-defined metropolitan region.

The highest levels of super-commuting are found in Houston and Dallas, Texas, where more than 13 percent of workers - 251,000 and 176,000, respectively - are super-commuters. Super-commuting is also substantial in Phoenix (131,000 workers or 8.6 percent of all workers), Atlanta (47,700 or 7.5 percent), and Philadelphia (42,100 or 7.3 percent).

The growth rate of super-commuters from 2002 to 2009 is equally amazing. In Houston, the growth of super-commuters was nearly 100 percent, followed by Los Angeles (77 percent), Seattle (60 percent), New York City (60 percent), and Philadelphia (50 percent). Super-commuting is growing in eight of the ten metros covered by the study.

The most popular super-commuting routes among major U.S. cities are Tucson to Phoenix, Ariz. (54,400 workers), Houston to Dallas (44,300 workers), Dallas to Houston, (51,900 workers), Austin to Dallas (32,400 workers), and San Diego to Los Angeles (78,300 workers).  

(Click the map to see a larger version)

The second map (also from the study) shows the nation's emerging super-commuting corridors. These are quite similar to the nation's mega-regions. They include the Northeast Corridor linking Boston and New York; the Keystone Corridor from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia; the Midwest Quadrant connecting Chicago to Indianapolis, St. Louis, and Detroit; The Texas Triangle of Austin, Dallas, and Houston; the Arizona Sun Corridor between Phoenix and Tucscon; the California Corridor running from San Francisco down to Los Angeles; and the Northwest Corridor connecting Portland and Seattle.

Super-commuting is stretching the boundaries of what we mean by "the city." For most of human history, the city was defined by what was walkable. But advances in transportation technology, especially in the 19th and 20th centuries, expanded its boundaries, leading to the rise of metro areas and ultimately to the growth of mega-regions. These new technologies speed the movement of people, goods and ideas. 

The report notes that the rise in super-commuting reflects growing economic integration between what were once independent and far-flung cities and metro areas. More and more, super-commuting is part of our increasingly spiky world which stretches the boundaries of our cities and creates larger and more integrated economic regions.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Transportation

    A Horrifying Glimpse Into Your Dystopian Future Transit Commute

    A comic artist’s take on what the future of transportation might really feel like.

  2. A cyclist rides on the bike lane in the Mid Market neighborhood during Bike to Work Day in San Francisco,
    Perspective

    Why Asking for Bike Lanes Isn't Smart

    In the 1930s big auto dreamed up freeways and demanded massive car infrastructure. Micromobility needs its own Futurama—one where cars are marginalized.

  3. Uber Eats worker
    Life

    The Millennial Urban Lifestyle Is About to Get More Expensive

    As WeWork crashes and Uber bleeds cash, the consumer-tech gold rush may be coming to an end.

  4. a photo of the Maryland Renaissance Festival
    Life

    To Hell With Everything: I’m Moving to a Renaissance Festival

    What’s behind the enduring popularity of all these medieval-themed living-history fairs?

  5. Life

    Why Do Instagram Playgrounds Keep Calling Themselves Museums?

    The bustling industry of immersive, Instagram-friendly experiences has put a new spin on the word museum.

×