Map of the week: Who commutes in Minnesota, and how


An average Minnesotan’s commute time is about 22 minutes, consistent with the 23.7-minute national average. These figures are for all forms of transportation, including transit and non-motorized travel. Roughly 75% of Minnesotans drive by themselves to work, which according to the Census Bureau, matches national numbers. Since the 1960 Census—the first that collected commuting data—private miles have steadily increased. We all know it is time for to reverse this trend.

Only 5% of US workers commute via public transportation. The Twin Cities metro area ranked 12th in public transportation usage among major metros for work commutes.

Take a look at the maps below, which show average commute times by county, with a breakdown of the state’s 4 largest metro areas and their public transit usage.

(Click here for interative maps)

The first map shows the difference in commute time between using an automobile or public transit. Orange and red counties indicate areas where the public transit commute took more time than using an automobile. It comes as no surprise that only 5% of people chose to commute via public transit when the commute can take up to 45 minutes more in certain areas.

Public transit, however, does have the ability to decrease commute times. On the second map, green counties represent areas where people reported that using public transit (not including taxi cabs) is actually faster than using a car. What is interesting about this map, is that the green counties are actually less densely populated than urbanized counties, demonstrating public transit isn’t just a big city thing. Public transit can, and does, work in smaller cities and towns.

A recent Natural Resources Defense Council report stated that Americans are increasingly warming up to the idea of public transit and are even favoring expanding transit over building new roads. The report also showed that it’s not just people living in cities that are interested in public transit, but that people living in small cities and towns, and even in rural areas, were just as interested in more public transit.

There has been a nationwide movement that is seeing smaller cities expand their public transit infrastructure. In 2012, Bloomington, Indiana – a city of 81,000 people – started exploring the idea of a Bus Rapid Transit system, stating it’s not just for big cities anymore. Other less densely populated areas already have this infrastructure in place.

The Community Transportation Association of America’s executive director once stated that rural transportation networks “are the transportation solution for the next century”. Instead of just focusing on large scale public transit projects in big cities, Minnesota may want to look into expanding transit infrastructure in some of its smaller communities. And by doing so, perhaps shave off a few minutes of that pesky commute time.