Cities with the Earliest Commute Times
As fall arrives and the days grow shorter and chillier, waking up early increases in difficulty.
Despite this, millions of American workers still have to rise and grind, even if the sun isn’t out yet.
But which cities are home to the earliest risers?
We conducted an in-depth analysis of commute start times in 170 of the country’s most populous cities. Analyzing data from the Census Bureau, our study uncovers which cities have the highest percentage of workers who begin their commutes before 7 a.m.
We also looked at cities where workers get a late start on their workday by analyzing commutes that start after 8:30 a.m.
- Nationwide, 36.5 million workers (or 26.9% of commuters) begin their morning commute before 7 a.m.
- Two cities with strong manufacturing ties, Clarksville, TN and Newport News, VA, are home to the earliest risers in the country. 40% of workers in Clarksville start their commute before 7 a.m. and 37% of commuters in Newport News are rising early for work.
- At 45.5 minutes, Palmdale, California is home to the nation’s longest average commute and ranks 6th for earliest risers, with 35% leaving for work before 7 a.m.
- Workers in Sunnyvale, California and Washington, D.C. take a more laid-back approach to starting their workday, with 3-in-10 workers leaving for work after 8:30 a.m.
- Nationwide, only 12% of workers leave for work after 8:30 a.m.
Which cities have the earliest commutes?
Perhaps unsurprisingly, two cities with U.S. Army ties and manufacturing roots – Clarksville, Tennessee, and Newport News, Virginia – claim spots No. 1 and No. 2 for the nation’s earliest risers.
Clarksville residents are especially regimented – it’s the only city on the list where over 40% of commuters begin their drive to work before 7 a.m.
Venturing westward, cities in California account for 5 of the top 10 spots. Oxnard (36.8%), Palmdale (34.8%), San Bernardino (34%), Moreno Valley (32.8%), and Ontario, CA (32.7%) all boast significant percentages of pre-dawn commuters.
In Las Vegas (No. 10), 32.6% of commuters begin their drive just as Elvis might’ve officiated his final quickie wedding.
Cities in Illinois, Florida, Texas, Colorado, Arizona, and Massachusetts also claim the top 25 spots on the map of earliest risers.
Top five cities with the earliest commutes
- Number of workers who commute: 76,531
- Average commute time: 26.3 minutes
- Number of workers who commute before 7 a.m.: 31,039
- Percent of workers who commute before 7 a.m.: 40.6%
Newport News, Virginia
- Number of workers who commute: 84,198
- Average commute time: 22.8 minutes
- Number of workers who commute before 7 a.m.: 31,522
- Percent of workers who commute before 7 a.m.: 37.4%
- Number of workers who commute: 89,895
- Average commute time: 25.3 minutes
- Number of workers who commute before 7 a.m.: 33,102
- Percent of workers who commute before 7 a.m.: 36.8%
- Number of workers who commute: 75,692
- Average commute time: 26.9 minutes
- Number of workers who commute before 7 a.m.: 27,206
- Percent of workers who commute before 7 a.m.: 35.9%
- Number of workers who commute: 81,985
- Average commute time: 27.6 minutes
- Number of workers who commute before 7 a.m.: 28,569
- Percent of workers who commute before 7 a.m.: 34.8%
Where do workers sleep in the most?
Considering California’s laid-back lifestyle, it’s fitting that many of the top five cities with the latest commute start times are located in the Golden State.
Commuters in Sunnyvale, California, are the most laid-back, with 33.4% of residents beginning their drive to work after 8:30 a.m. Sunnyvale commuters also benefit from a relatively breezy average commute time of 22 minutes.
The “late commute” trend continues in Irvine (No. 3), where 25.6% of commuters do the same, as well as in San Francisco, CA (No. 4), with 24.2% opting for a later start to their workday.
Heading to the other side of the country, Washington, D.C. comes in at No. 2, where 29.3% of workers start their day after 8:30 a.m. Atlanta, Georgia, also embraces a relaxed approach at No. 5, with 23.8% of commuters getting started after the 8:30 a.m. mark.
For context, only 12% of commuters nationwide leave for work after 8:30 a.m., according to the Census Bureau.
With hybrid work increasing in popularity, business owners across a variety of industries are opting to give their employees flexible schedules in terms of when employees start their workday.
From staggered start times to flexible work hours, businesses can give their employees the freedom to align their work schedules with their personal preferences. If you’re a business owner looking to create more flexibility for employee start times, it’s important to keep the lines of communication open and decide which options work best for maintaining your business goals and employee work-life balance.
To determine our ranking, we analyzed U.S. Census Bureau data indicating which time workers leave their homes to go to work in 170 of the nation's most populous cities. Specifically, we examined the percentage of commuters who leave for work between 5:00 a.m. and 7:00 a.m. to identify cities with the earliest commuters. Additionally, we considered the percentage of commuters who begin their commute between 8:30 a.m. and 9:59 a.m. to identify cities with the latest start times for their commutes.
Sources: U.S. Census Bureau American Community Survey 2022
Fair Use: Feel free to use this data and research with proper attribution linking to this study.
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