"Mega Commutes" Common For New Jersey Drivers
New Jersey drivers are more likely than the average worker to spend more than an hour traveling to or from work.
The vast majority of New Jersey’s “mega commuters”—meaning those who travel 60 minutes or more to get to work—are traveling to Manhattan, often via train. Nationwide, 11.8 percent of mega commuters use rail travel, according to Census data.
Just over 8 percent of U.S. workers travel 60 minutes or longer to get to work. However, in the state of New Jersey, nearly 15 percent of commuters travel an hour or more to work, Census data shows.
New Jersey’s number of mega commuters is surpassed only by New York, where 16.2 percent of commuters travel 60 minutes or more.
The average one-way travel time for workers nationwide is 25.5 minutes, and about 25 percent of commuters leave their county for work, Census data shows. In Bergen County alone, approximately 66,530 workers commute to New York County to work. Nearby Passaic County has 10,108 workers commuting to the city, and Hudson County has approximately 75,830 workers traveling to the city for work.
A 2011 study called “Out-of-State and Long Commutes” found that 23 percent of workers with long commutes (an hour or more) use public transportation, compared to just 5.3 percent of all workers.
“The average travel time for workers who commute by public transportation is higher than that of workers who use other modes. For some workers, using transit is a necessity, but others simply choose a longer travel time over sitting in traffic,” said Census Bureau statistician Brian McKenzie, author of the brief.
In 2006, Richard Wener studied over 200 commuters traveling from New Jersey to Manhattan at least three times per week. The commutes ranged from 45 to 180 minutes. During the study, the mega commuters were given questionnaires, a proofreading exercise, and their saliva was tested at the end of the commute to measure the stress hormone cortisol.
The study found that longer commutes are significantly associated with elevated stress levels, poorer proofreading performance, and higher levels of perceived stress. The longer the commute, the more stress it puts on the commuter—which could be bad news for the scores of New Jersey commuters who travel to the city every day.
In addition to elevated stress levels, mega commutes can contribute to lack of sleep and tension at home. Mega commuters are more likely to leave for work before 6 a.m. in order to make the long commute, meaning less time at home and a tired workforce.
The U.S. Census reports that mega commuters tend to older, married, male, make an above-average salary, and have a spouse who does not work. More than 75 percent of mega commuters are male.
The New York City metro area has the longest average commute in the country at 34.9 minutes, followed by Washington, D.C., at 34.5 minutes, according to NJ.com.