How ‘reachable’ is downtown DC when it comes to commuting?

Odds are you don’t need another study to tell you traffic in the D.C. region isn’t the smoothest, and your commute is too long and too stressful. So instead, researchers with the transportation analytics firm Geotab studied how “reachable” different metropolitan areas are.

The average commute throughout the D.C. region is 41 minutes. That average, though considered “ideal” when taking into account how far some people drive to get to work, is a bit misleading since it lumps together relatively easy commutes from places such as Maryland’s Bethesda or Virginia’s Arlington as well as much longer trips to work like someone coming from Frederick, Maryland or Stafford County, Virginia.

With that in mind, researchers with Geotab wanted to look into how “reachable” a city is, a term defined as how accessible the city center is and how long it takes you to reach it by car or public transit, said Kelly Hall with Geotab.

The answer, unsurprisingly, is not very.

“Washington, D.C. made the list as being the city with the second longest average commute time,” said Hall.

D.C. is behind New York City by only about 2 minutes.

“That’s just an average. Washington D.C. is one of the least reachable cities, meaning that only 29% of commuters can make it to the city in under 30 minutes.”

That number drops even lower when you factor in public transit options.

The study, backed by data released from the Department of Transportation, said New Yorkers have by far the worst commutes, with only 4% of them able to arrive in the city’s center in under 30 minutes. That number is weighed down by the number of people who can do so via public transit.

Boston and Chicago are both more unreachable than D.C. when public transit options are factored in, though both are evidently easier to get to in a car than D.C.’s city center is.

“The public transit numbers kind of surprised us,” said Hall.

“Given how many people are using public transportation, the fact that it takes close to an hour says that maybe we need to focus a little bit more on improving infrastructure and looking at different alternatives to help people get to where they need to go.”

But while the D.C. area has it bad, there aren’t too many places that can say they have it good.

“Honestly we found maybe five cities that we consider ‘very reachable,'” Hall said.

At the top of that list is San Diego — where the weather is consistently dreamy — the average commute is 26 minutes and nearly three-quarters of the city’s commuters can get downtown in less than a half hour, giving people more time to enjoy the beach and other outdoor activities in 70-degree sunshine. Phoenix, Arizona comes in second on the list.

Rounding out the list of most reachable cities are Minneapolis, Minnesota; Portland, Oregon; and Orlando, Florida.

John Domen

John started working at WTOP in 2016 after having grown up in Maryland listening to the station as a child. While he got his on-air start at small stations in Pennsylvania and Delaware, he's spent most of his career in the D.C. area, having been heard on several local stations before coming to WTOP.

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