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The Multidimensional Burden of Long Commutes

Authors: Youjin Kim*, UC Irvine
Topics: Urban Geography
Keywords: commute, spatial mismatch, inequality
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This study examines another aspect of the commute – the time of departure. Over two-thirds of the commuters in the Los Angeles Metropolitan Area leave for work between 6 and 10AM, but another million individuals leave between dusk and dawn (between 5PM and 6AM). While these more unconventional hours of departure will likely reflect patterns of employment types (i.e. industry and occupation), it may also indicate workers’ attempts to adjust their commute length and “solve” the impossible puzzle of matching employment and affordable housing. As a result, workers are likely making radical changes to their daily lives, sacrificing time for family, sleep, and other nonwork activities.

Initial analyses of individual-level public use microdata of the Los Angeles Metropolitan Area show that mean commute times are in fact longest between 1-2AM and 8-9PM, almost 10 minutes longer than during the rush hours of 8-9AM when we observe the highest levels of traffic congestion and public transit use. At the same time, workers who commute during these non-traditional hours earn less than rush-hour-commuters and are mostly employed in low-wage industries and occupations, including transportation/warehousing/utilities, retail, sales, and office and administrative support. Additional analyses may include mapping by residential or workplace locations at the PUMA-level.

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