Thursday, April 26, 2018

Stockton Has Both the Longest and Shortest Commutes in the U.S.

The Stockton-Lodi area has a very interesting economy - there are many extremes and averages can be deceptive.  This is well illustrated by Stockton appearing at the top of the list in two recent studies: one that measured the share of the population that are super-commuters, and the other measured shortest commutes.  In other words, if you are a worker in the Stockton-Lodi area, your commute is likely to be either extremely short or extremely long.

Here are the stories/studies:

First, from this weeks San Jose Mercury News,
https://www.mercurynews.com/2018/04/25/nightmare-90-minute-super-commutes-more-common-housing-shortage-intensifies/
SJM-L COMMUTE-0425-90-01

Second, this slightly older Marketwatch story describing a Brooking Institution report that looked at commute length for people who live and work in the same metro area.
The longest commute is in sprawling Atlanta, followed closely behind by Dallas and Houston. The shortest commute is in the Stockton-Lodi, Calif., metro area.  
Metro Typical commute in miles
Stockton, CA 4.7
New Haven, CT 5
Scranton, PA 5.2
Oxnard, CA 5.3
Bridgeport, CT 5.4
Provo, UT 5.5
Bakersfield, CA 5.6
Fresno, CA 5.6
Spokane, WA 5.6
Ogden, UT 5.7

The top 10 are listed above, notice that other Central Valley Metros are here too.  And here is the link to the original Brookings study
https://www.brookings.edu/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/Srvy_JobsProximity.pdf

This is a good example of how averages can be deceiving.  It is easy to see how a company or location consultant screening areas might use average commute time data and think that traffic and commuting is a terrible strike against it.  However, a closer look reveals that employee commutes are actually very short in Stockton for employers if they are a good fit for the regional workforce.

The relatively short local commutes of Central Valley metros in this ranking of local job proximity is interesting too.  With the exception of Sacramento, the large cities in the Central Valley (Stockton, Fresno, Bakersfield) are not characterized by sprawling suburbs full of workers commuting to an urban core of office jobs.  While these cities certainly have plenty of suburban, sprawl type housing in the city limits, often the city boundaries end abruptly into farmland rather than another suburb, followed by another suburb.      

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