LA Traffic: What’s All the Complaining About?

The average LA commuter spends less than 30 minutes to get to work, according to a new census report

As much as motorists in Los Angeles complain about traffic, a new U.S. Census report shows that LA commuters have it easy when compared to commuters in 16 other communities.

The report found it took commuters in the LA-Long Beach-Santa Ana area 28.1 minutes to get to work in 2010, giving it a 17th place ranking.

True, the LA area has the worst congestion in the nation, but that distinction does not translate to having the worst commute times, according to Brain Taylor, director of the Institute of Transportation Studies at UCLA.

Los Angeles -- a sprawling area weaved together by a web of freeways, parkways, highways, toll roads and carpool lanes -- has a lot of drivers, but the average person is not spending hours driving to and from work, said Taylor.

“The actual journey to work only accounts now for about 15 percent of the time LA drivers spend on their way to work,” said Taylor. “The largest portion of their time is spent on errands like shopping, which is not included when measuring a commute."

The time commuters using public transit spend waiting is considered in the commute time. That includes transferring on trains or buses. The wait times for public transit help explain LA’s ranking because most LA commuters only drive, Taylor said.

"The average commuter uses about twice as much time using public transit to go to work and come back compared to people who drive on their own," said Hamid Bahadori of the Automobile Club of Southern California.

The New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island metropolitan area, which has an established public transit system, ranked No. 1 in the census study. It takes drivers an average of 34.6 minutes to get to work.

The Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario area was 5th on the list, with an average commute time of 30.6 minutes.

"I mean the traffic does suck. I'm luckily a patient person," UC Riverside student Nella Juma said.

Josiah Bruny is another Riverside driver who has to put up with the 5th-worst commute in the country.

"I take back roads. That's the beautiful part about Riverside County. We got a lot of back roads and canyons. So that's what we really need to do to avoid the traffic," Bruny said.

The study also found suburban workers drove alone at a rate of 81.5 percent compared with 72.1 percent for workers living inside a principal city.

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