Richard Florida is a co-founder and editor at large of CityLab and a senior editor at The Atlantic. He is a university professor in the University of Toronto’s School of Cities and Rotman School of Management, and a distinguished fellow at New York University’s Schack Institute of Real Estate.
Despite its extensive transit systems, plenty of New Yorkers still endure long travel times.
With its extensive subway and rail systems and well-developed bike lanes, one would expect New York City to be something of a commuters’ paradise. But the reality is that the length of a New York City commute depends a great deal on where you live and work, and what kind of job you do, according to a report released Thursday by the Center for an Urban Future. The report, by senior researcher Adam Forman, takes a deep dive into the commuting patterns of New Yorkers based on where they live and work using data from the 2014 American Community Survey. Here are some of its most interesting findings.
New Yorkers don’t travel all that far
The chart below shows the commuting patterns both within and between New York City boroughs. Perhaps the most surprising discovery is that New Yorkers are more likely to commute to work in their own borough—despite the fact that Manhattan is still the city’s central hub of employment. Over in Queens, 41 percent of residents work in their home borough compared to 35 percent who work in Manhattan. The report finds a similar distribution in the Bronx (41 percent vs. 38 percent) and in Brooklyn (49 percent vs. 37 percent). Over in Staten Island, a whopping 52 percent of residents work in their home borough compared to a mere 22 percent who work in Manhattan.
Curiously enough, the neighborhoods with the closest proximity to transit and job centers have the highest shares of residents who work from home. About 4 percent of New York City’s working population now works from home (up 68 percent from 2000 to 2014). Of all five boroughs, the Bronx has seen the greatest increase in residents working in their home borough* in recent years (40 percent), followed by Brooklyn (37 percent) and Queens (28 percent).
Residents of Queens are also the most likely to work outside the city: 13 percent of Queens residents commute to places other than New York City, compared to 12 percent in the Bronx, 9 percent in Staten Island, 8 percent in Manhattan, and 6 percent in Brooklyn.
Of the top ten neighborhoods with the longest commutes, four are located in Brooklyn, another four in Queens, and two in the Bronx. Conversely, nine out of the top ten neighborhoods with the shortest commutes are located in Manhattan.
Some New York City commuters are still car-dependent
The map below shows the preferred method of transit across all 55 New York City neighborhoods covered by the U.S. Census. While the report finds that 59 percent of New Yorkers commute to work via mass transit, some neighborhoods are still heavily car-dependent. In ten out of the 55 neighborhoods, commuters depend on cars or taxis more than any other form of transportation. Of these ten neighborhoods, six are located in Queens, three in Staten Island, and one in the Bronx.
There are six neighborhoods where over 20 percent of commuters walk or bike to work, five of which are located in Manhattan: Stuyvesant Town, Chelsea/Midtown, the Lower East Side, Greenwich Village/the Financial District, and the Upper East Side. Of the five neighborhoods with the highest shares of bike commuters, two are located in Manhattan (Lower East Side/Chinatown and Greenwich Village/the Financial District) and three are located in Brooklyn (North Crown Heights/Prospect Heights, Brooklyn Heights/Fort Greene, and Park Slope/Carroll Gardens)—although the shares of bike commuters in these neighborhoods are still no higher than 6 percent.
Commuting varies by industry
Although the majority of jobs in New York (79 percent) are filled by city residents, many workers still commute from outside the city. For all that’s been made of more affluent, educated workers moving back to the city to enjoy shorter commutes, the report finds that many workers in higher-paying industries and jobs live outside the city. For example, 38 percent of finance workers live outside city, as do 40 percent of utility workers and 30 percent of government workers. By contrast, workers in lower-paying service jobs are more likely to live in the city: 85 percent of retail and healthcare workers and 90 percent of food service workers live in the city.
Finance workers also have the longest commutes: an average of 51 minutes. The industry with the second-highest commute is construction (50 minutes), followed by public administration and manufacturing—each with 48-minute commutes.
Even workers with shorter commutes have to travel a while to get to their jobs. Workers in educational services may have the shortest commutes, but they are still left traveling for 40 minutes. Close behind are workers in real estate, as well as arts and entertainment, who travel for 41 minutes, and workers in retail, who travel for 42 minutes on average.
Overall, the report is an important reminder that even workers in dense, vibrant cities like New York with plenty of transit options often endure long commutes, and that more affluent workers still often choose to live outside the city.
*CORRECTION: This post has been updated to clarify that the number of residents commuting to work in their home borough increased, not the number of residents working from home.