Our commutes to work are getting longer, study says

Published 1:31 PM EDT, Tue March 24, 2015

Story highlights

A new Brookings study says proximity to jobs is declining

The lack of proximity forces longer commutes in both distance and time

Metro areas will have to work across jurisdictions to solve problems, the study says

(CNN) —  

Think it’s taking you longer to get to work? Has your job moved farther from your home?

You’re probably right on both counts.

A new study from the Brookings Institution says the number of jobs within a typical commute distance for residents in major metro areas of the U.S. fell by 7% between 2000 and 2012.

Despite trends that indicate a greater desire for millennials to live in dense urban areas, suburbs are still doing well, according to some researchers. Employers have tended to move toward the suburbs, away from city cores – and away from many workers, the study says.

Moreover, even if you already live in the suburbs, it doesn’t mean you live close to the suburb where the jobs are.

“Suburban residents saw the number of jobs within a typical commute distance drop by 7%, more than twice the decline experienced by the typical city resident (3%),” Elizabeth Kneebone and Natalie Holmes wrote in the study’s summary.

The issue disproportionately affects poor and minority residents, the authors added.

“Residents of high-poverty and majority-minority neighborhoods experienced particularly pronounced declines in job proximity,” they wrote, observing that 61% of high-poverty tracts and 55% of majority-minority neighborhoods experienced declines in job proximity between 2000 and 2012.

High-poverty neighborhoods were defined as tracts with poverty rates above 20%.

The Brookings study comes as metro areas are coping with increased stresses on infrastructure. Tuesday’s New York Times was filled with letters complaining about a subway fare increase and crowds at all hours in the New York system. In Atlanta, one suburban county recently added mass transit for the first time since 2010 – even as the Georgia legislature has been gutting portions of a transportation bill.

And a Detroit man garnered nationwide headlines in February because of his 21-mile commute – a hefty chunk of which he walked due to a lack of transit options.

The Brookings study observes that solving commuting issues “will require collaborative solutions” across jurisdictions.

“The dynamics that have shaped these job proximity patterns across and within metro areas did not emerge by themselves,” Kneebone and Holmes wrote (PDF). “Local, regional, and state leaders put them in play (whether purposefully or by default) through policy decisions. To foster growth that is truly regional in its reach and that does not exacerbate inequality or leave low-income and minority residents behind, communities will need to coordinate and collaborate as they plan and implement policy decisions that affect metropolitan development patterns.”