WASHINGTON – Maryland residents spend an average of 30 minutes each day getting to work, the second-longest commute time in the country, a Census report said Wednesday.
The half-hour commute is more than five minutes longer than the national average of 24.4 minutes, and only seconds behind the commute for New York residents, who take an average of 30.8 minutes to get to work every day.
“This is yet another transportation hall of shame to which our region has been nominated,” said Lon Anderson, a spokesman for AAA Mid-Atlantic.
The results, based on 2002 data from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, placed Baltimore fifth in daily commute time among cities, at 29.7 minutes, while Washington came in sixth at 29.4 minutes.
Among counties, Prince George’s residents face a 34.6-minute daily commute, sixth-longest in the country, while Montgomery County residents came in 16th place with 30.9 minutes.
Other Maryland counties on the list were Anne Arundel, tied for 35th place with 29 minutes; Howard, in 37th with 28.8 minutes; and Baltimore County, tied for 61st with 27.1 minutes.
Except for Prince George’s County, which dropped a few seconds, all other counties and cities in the state saw a rise in average commute time from 2000 to 2002. Maryland’s overall average rose from 29.2 minutes in 2000, a nearly 3 percent increase.
Anderson said the data reflect the fact that the transportation infrastructure has not kept up with the growing population in the Baltimore-Washington corridor.
“We have welcomed new people and new businesses, but we have not welcomed new transportation facilities,” he said.
State officials said part of the reason is a lack of funding. Maryland ranks 47th among states in terms of highway investment, and no new transportation projects have been added in the past three years, said Jack Cahalan, a state Department of Transportation spokesman.
Anderson was not surprised by the Washington-area results. He noted that all roads in the region end at the Capital Beltway, but not all have been expanded. There has also been increasing traffic between the outer suburbs, Anderson said.
He was more surprised to find Baltimore so high on the list. He attributed that not to poor road conditions, but rather to the lack of improvements in mass transit in the city.
Cahalan said that even though the report reflects only what people reported to the Census and is not a “scientific analysis,” the impact is clear.
“That frustration with congestion on behalf of Marylanders is crystal clear,” he said.
To alleviate commuting times across the state, Anderson said there needs to be a “concerted effort” to change transportation habits, including increased use of mass transit and telecommuting. There also needs to be funding to improve the existing transportation systems, which Anderson estimated would cost in the tens of billions of dollars.
“We’ve paid lip service, but at some point it’s going to have to be in real dollars,” he said.
Help may be on the way, Cahalan said. Gov. Robert Ehrlich this month announced a plan to increase fees and fines to raise an additional $320 million a year for six years to fund highway and transit projects across the state.
All told, more than $13 billion would go to improving the state’s transportation network over that period, Cahalan said, adding that the fund does not include money for the proposed InterCounty Connector.
“We have to build what the people of Maryland need, and what they need is a better highway network and transit that works,” he said.
But beyond just suggesting that Marylanders spend too much time getting to work, the report suggests “the growing hardship” people must endure to live in the region, Anderson said. The numbers “emphasize real damage to our lifestyles,” he said.
“At what point do quality workers and businesses decide to move out?” Anderson said. “Everyone in our region who commutes knows we have it bad. I hope it (the report) will serve as a wake-up call.”
-30- CNS 02-25-04