From: Bradley Weaver, The Press-Enterprise, Riverside, CA
Published September 14, 2004 12:00 AM

Riverside, CA area drivers have fourth-longest average commute in U.S.

Drive times have increased for Riverside commuters who trail only New York, Chicago and Newark for time spent on the road, new census data shows.


An annual U.S. Census Bureau survey, which questioned residents of the nation's largest cities, found that Riverside residents spent an average of 31.2 minutes getting to work each day during 2003, a one-minute increase from 2002 and a nearly six-minute jump from 2001.


The findings are based on responses from a sample of commuters interviewed in 2003. About 828,590 households participated in the study, which examined the one-way commuting time for workers 16 and older.


Ken Bryson, a program analyst for the American Community Survey, which compiled the information, said Riverside's public transportation is underused and its road systems are challenged by a booming population.


About 300,000 people have moved to the Inland area over the last three years, many lured by the area's affordable homes.


"A lot of people seem willing to sacrifice long commutes for cheaper homes," he said Monday. "But it's making for a heck of a long drive for some people."


The nation's average commute time is about 24 minutes, about two minutes more than in 1990.


Among states, New York led with an average commute time of 30 minutes, followed by Maryland, New Jersey, Washington D.C., Illinois and California.


Riverside County residents spend 30.8 minutes getting to work, ranking 18th among 233 counties nationwide with at least 250,000 people. San Bernardino County residents spend 28.1 minutes, ranking 49th on the list.


Inland transportation leaders are working to improve traffic flow with a variety of projects, including a $317 million upgrade to the Riverside interchange that links Highways 60 and 91 and Interstate 215. The job is expected to be finished within four years, doubling the interchange's capacity to 250,000 cars per day.


Officials also hope more commuters will use the Metrolink rail system when a new line opens in Perris by 2008. The project calls for the creation of six new stations along a 22-mile stretch between downtown Riverside and Perris. Once running, the new line is expected to eliminate 4,000 auto trips per day.


COMMUTE TIMES:


The average one-way travel time to work, in minutes, for the nation's large cities in 2003:


--New York City 38.3
--Chicago 33.2
--Newark 31.5
--Riverside 31.2
--Philadelphia 29.4


To see more of The Press-Enterprise, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.PE.com.


© 2004, The Press-Enterprise, Riverside, Calif. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News.


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