How People Commute In Your City

Boy, do people drive a lot in Silicon Valley.

How People Commute In Your City
Photo: littleny via Shutterstock

Since 2009, commuting times in the U.S. have been steadily on the rise. New York, D.C. and Chicago all have average commute times of 30 minutes or more. Then there are the “mega-commuters” who travel at least 90 minutes or 50 miles to get to work: in 2013, according to the U.S. Census Bureau report that popularized the term, there were nearly 600,000 of them.

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Visually speaking, these lengthy commutes may look like endless bumper-to-bumper traffic filling up two-lane highways; or perhaps long train rides in the quiet car. In the hands of data scientist Mark Evans, however, groups of commuters become color-coded dots hypnotically traveling from home to work and back. Since the size of the dots correspond to the number of people who generally travel the same commute, the visualization gives an instant glance at how workers are distributed in a given city.

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Take San Francisco, for instance, a city where the workforce population has shifted drastically over the past decade. Unlike most other major U.S. cities, San Francisco’s commuter dots float from homes in the city proper to workplaces in the surrounding counties. The Silicon Valley counties of Santa Clara and San Mateo predictably assemble the largest cluster of commuter dots from the city. The picture that data paints echoes sentiments that the moneyed tech crowd–those Silicon Valley commuters–have taken over San Francisco, raising rents and and changing the city’s culture along with it.

That’s the macro view. For a closer look, you can pause the map and click on the dot for more information about where the commuters are traveling to and from (these are based on census tracts, an area of about 4,000 residents). You can even click on a Google Maps link to see the basic route. For example, should you click on a dot in Mountain View, Calif., you could trace a common commute from Richmond District in San Francisco to the Google complex–a 55-minute drive. Perhaps all that time in the car will serve as inspiration for self-driving cars and the more relaxing commute of the future.

See the commuting paths for your own city with the full infographic, which lives here.

About the author

Meg Miller is an associate editor at Co.Design covering art, technology, and design.