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Why 45 minutes is long enough

It’s official – people hate commuting. Commuting is linked with a higher risk of obesity, divorce, neck pain, stress, worry, and insomnia. It also makes us eat more junk food and exercise less. For people who have long commutes – more than 45 minutes one way – it is even worse.

Average commuting time

A study using data from Household Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) found the average commuting time is 29 minutes. The average commute rarely goes above 35 minutes, partly because cities tend to change to help people move around them and partly because people find ways to adapt.

However, nearly a quarter of commuters – more that 2 million people – commute for more than 45 minutes one way. Although travelling daily for more than 45 minutes has a high personal cost, most Australians do it because they consider their pay makes it worthwhile.

Some 16% of light vehicle drivers are lengthy commuters. But nearly three quarters of lengthy commuters in Sydney are on some kind of public transport.

As you might expect, people who use public transport have varying travel times, depending on where in Sydney they live.

  • Inner city residents commute for 46 minutes one way
  • Middle ring suburbs (10-25 kms from the CBD) travel for 59 minutes
  • Outer Sydney residents commute for 79 minutes.

Commuting suburbs

However, the highest percentage of commutes over 45 minutes is from the middle ring suburbs:

  • Burwood (39%)
  • Auburn (38%)
  • Manly (36%)
  • Ku-ring-gai (36%)
  • Hurstville (35%).

Time spent travelling rises with income and skills. For example, a quarter of employees with a degree or higher are lengthy commuters, compared to 16% of commuters with Year 11 or lower education.

  • More men than women are lengthy commuters
  • Travel times rise with age up to 40 and then start to decline, particularly for women
  • Australians born overseas commute for longer than Australian-born commuters.

Lengthy commuting

For comparison, a 2015 study in Britain found more than 3 million people commute more than 2 hours a day, up by 72% in the past decade. Unfortunately, this is often because they cannot afford to live anywhere near their place of work.

The Australian study found lengthy commuting – more than 45 minutes each way – is usually temporary, and many people adapt to this by changing jobs or, more commonly, by moving house.

Our recent blog on congestion found some of the slowest moving commuting times since 2013 have been on Sydney’s toll roads: M5, M7, and M2.

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