June 16, 2024 10:03 am

Local News

The Long Haul: Commuting in Michigan

Credit: iStock

Parker Wallis

US Census Bureau data reveals that Michigan residents spend “an average of 24.5 minutes commuting to work,” ranked the “27th longest commute among the states” and Washington, D.C. (Wyoming excluded.)

The city with the shortest average commute time in Michigan was Marquette, according to newly released Census data on commute times. Marquette is the largest city in the Upper Peninsula with a population of approximately 20,000 people.

Between 2016 and 2020, the American Community Survey recorded the average commute times by Michigan county.  Macomb, Oakland, and Genesee County came in around 26-27 minutes. Washtenaw County reported an average of 24 minutes while Saginaw and Grand Rapids County averaged at around 21 minutes. Saginaw and Grand Traverse County were listed at 20 minutes average. 

The Bureau’s 2018 American Community Survey shows “about 6.3 percent of commuters in the state have one-way travel times exceeding one hour.” Detroit reports commute times of over 90 minutes for more than 7 percent of its residents, known as super commuters. 

Super commuters, who often spend hours commuting and/or travel to another city for work, are highly susceptible to stress-related health complications. 

“This kind of travel raises your blood pressure,” according to Richard Jackson, professor emeritus of environmental health sciences at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health. “It raises your cortisol level, it raises your adrenaline level, it actually raises your risk of having a heart attack during and for about an hour after you’re doing this. So, there are direct physical threats.”

Even a daily commute as short as 10 miles is associated with an increase in high blood pressure, as data from a 2012 study from the American Journal of Preventive Medicine suggests.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, commuting habits have started to shift with researchers observing “public transit use decreasing, bikes and e-bikes gaining popularity and overall travel time decreasing as more people work from home.” 

Research from Reuters Health supports the idea that those who bike or walk to work actually have lower risk of both heart attack and stroke.

Jackson comments on how the sedentary nature of the modern commute can also be a health factor. 

“There are lots of upstream causes for our obesity and diabetes but the removal of physical activity from our lives is a very big one,” says Jackson. “A generation ago, 60-70 percent of kids walked to school and now it’s only about 20 percent.”