Data - March 2016

Fast City, Slow Commute

New Yorkers are efficient, direct and fast moving. Their commutes: anything but. In this data analysis, we examine New Yorkers’ commutes by neighborhood and across industries.

by Adam Forman

Tags: economic growth boroughs infrastructure transportation brooklyn data

New Yorkers are efficient, direct and fast moving. Their commutes: anything but. In all but one of New York City’s 55 Census-defined neighborhoods, the average commute time exceeds the national average of 26 minutes. In 69 percent of the city’s neighborhoods, the average commute to work is over 40 minutes.

This research was made possible through general operating support from the Bernard F. and Alva B. Gimbel Foundation, the Lucius N. Littauer Foundation and the M&T Charitable Foundation.

This data brief details the average commute times for each of the city’s neighborhoods; compares commuting times for workers in different industries; shows which forms of commuting (car, transit or walking) are most prevalent in each neighborhood; and shows that the number of residents commuting to work in their own borough continues to rise.

While nearly every New Yorker suffers through a long commute, the length varies depending on the borough and neighborhoodsi where they reside.  Average commutesii range from 53 minutes in the Rockaways to 26 minutes in the Financial District and Greenwich Village. In other words, over the course of a five day work week, Rockaway residents will spend four hours and 29 minutes more time commuting than those who live in Downtown Manhattan. Of the ten neighborhoods with the longest commutes, four are in Brooklyn, four are in Queens and two are in the Bronx. Of those with the shortest commutes, all but one is in Manhattan. However, even in neighborhoods closely located to the Manhattan jobs centers, commuting times are extensive. The average commute for residents of Astoria is 38 minutes and for Williamsburg, 36 minutes.

The ten neighborhoods with the longest commutes are: the Rockaways (53 minutes), Jamaica (51 minutes), Brownsville/Ocean Hill (48 minutes), Flatlands/Canarsie (48 minutes), Bellerose/Rosedale (47 minutes), Howard Beach/S. Ozone Park (46 minutes), Kingsbridge Heights/Mosholu (46 minutes), Soundview/Parkchester (46 minutes), East Flatbush (46 minutes) and Bensonhurst (45 minutes).

The three longest commutes in the Bronx are from Kingsbridge Heights/Mosholu (46 minutes), Soundview/Parkchester (46 minutes) and Williamsbridge/Baychester (44 minutes). The three longest commutes in Brooklyn are from Brownsville/Ocean Hill (48 minutes), Flatlands/Canarsie (48 minutes) and East Flatbush (46 minutes). The three longest commutes in Manhattan are from Washington Heights/Inwood (41 minutes), East Harlem (35 minutes) and Central Harlem (34 minutes). The three longest commutes in Queens are from Rockaways (53 minutes), Jamaica (51 minutes) and Bellerose/Rosedale (47 minutes). The longest commute in Staten Island is from South Shore (45 minutes).

Modes of transportation also vary by neighborhood. While 59 percent of New Yorkers use mass transit to get to work, in 10 of the city’s 55 neighborhoods, more commuters rely on cars or taxis than any other form of transportation. This is the case in all three Census-defined neighborhoods in Staten Island, six neighborhoods in Queens and one neighborhood in the Bronx. In another six of the city’s neighborhoods, over 20 percent of commuters walk or bike to work, including Stuyvesant Town (40 percent), Chelsea/Midtown (35 percent), Lower East Side (34 percent), Greenwich Village/FiDi (34 percent), Upper East Side (25 percent) and Borough Park (22 percent). The five neighborhoods with the highest share of bike commuters are Lower East Side/Chinatown (where six percent of commuters bike to work), Greenwich Village/Financial District (5 percent), North Crown Heights/Prospect Heights (5 percent), Brooklyn Heights/Fort Greene (5 percent) and Park Slope/Carroll Gardens (4 percent).

Many New Yorkers avoid commuting altogether. In six neighborhoods, more than seven percent of employed residents are primarily working from home (Upper West Side, Park Slope/Carroll Gardens, Chelsea/Clinton/Midtown, Stuyvesant Town/Turtle Bay, Greenwich Village/Financial District and Brooklyn Heights/Fort Greene). Interestingly, it is those neighborhoods with the closest proximity to job centers and the best transit options that have the highest share of residents who work out of their home. The number of New Yorkers working from home increased by 68 percent from 2000 to 2014 and now represents 3.9 percent of the city’s working population.

While Manhattan is clearly the city’s employment center, New Yorkers are actually more likely to commute to work in their own borough. Among Bronx commuters, 41 percent work in their home borough while 38 percent are employed in Manhattan. The gap is even larger in Queens (41 percent versus 35 percent), Brooklyn (49 percent versus 37 percent) and especially Staten Island (52 percent versus 22 percent).

From 2000 to 2014, the number of New Yorkers working in their home borough increased by 40 percent in the Bronx (from 168,849 to 237,156), 37 percent in Brooklyn (from 431,243 to 591,487), 28 percent in Queens (from 363,822 to 465,506), 23 percent in Staten Island (from 87,259 to 107,542) and 18 percent in Manhattan (from 635,122 to 747,996).

Queens residents are the most likely to work outside of the city. Thirteen percent commute to jobs beyond the five boroughs, followed by the Bronx (12 percent), Staten Island (9 percent), Manhattan (8 percent) and Brooklyn (6 percent).

Beyond neighborhoods and boroughs, commuting patterns also vary by industry. In several sectors, for instance, a large share of employees do not live in New York. In the city’s utilities sector, 40 percent of employees commute from outside of the city. Other sectors with a high share of workers commuting from outside the city include finance and insurance (38 percent) and government (30 percent). By contrast, the preponderance of those working in New York’s lowest paying sectors—retail, tourism, food services—reside inside the city. All but 10 percent of employees in accommodation and food services, 15 percent in retail and 15 percent in healthcare live in New York City. On the whole, 79 percent of jobs in the New York are filled by city residents. This has changed little since 2000, when 78 percent of New York jobs were occupied by city residents.

Given the large share of non-New Yorkers working in the city’s finance and insurance sector, it is unsurprising that it is the industry with the longest average commute: 51 minutes. It is followed by construction (50 minutes), public administration (48 minutes) and manufacturing (48 minutes). Employees in the educational services sector, on the other hand, have the shortest average commutes (40 minutes), followed by those working in arts and entertainment (41 minutes), real estate (41 minutes) and retail (42 minutes).

To reduce commuting times for those living inside and outside of New York, the city will have to improve and expand its transit options. To this end, the Center’s 2014 report on New York City infrastructure, Caution Ahead, offered several recommendations for increasing the efficiency of the city’s subway system and financing expansion.

First, it recommended an accelerated schedule for the modernization of the MTA’s signal system. Adopting Communications Based Train Control across the subway system will increase the frequency and speed of the city’s trains. 

Second, it recommended the adoption of the Move NY plan, introducing tolls on the city’s East River bridges. The plan would generate $1.5 billion in net annual revenue for the MTA, helping to improve state-of-good-repair and to finance system expansion.

Finally, while the MTA operates over 20 LIRR stations in the five boroughs, few New Yorkers use the service because of its high fares and its poor integration with the subway MetroCard. Reducing fares and integrating payment and transfers within the city could dramatically reduce commutes in transit deserts like northeast and southeast Queens.


Mass Transit Drive/Taxi Bike/Walk


Average Commuting Time by Neighborhood of Residence, 2014
Neighborhood Borough Average Commute Time
Rockaways Queens 52.9
Jamaica Queens 50.9
Brownsville/Ocean Hill Brooklyn 48.2
Flatlands/Canarsie Brooklyn 48.1
Bellerose/Rosedale Queens 46.9
Howard Beach/S. Ozone Park Queens 46.2
Kingsbridge Heights/Mosholu Bronx 46.1
Soundview/Parkchester Bronx 45.8
East Flatbush Brooklyn 45.6
Bensonhurst Brooklyn 45.4
East New York/Starrett City Brooklyn 44.8
Kew Gardens/Woodhaven Queens 44.6
South Shore Staten Island 44.6
Bay Ridge Brooklyn 44.5
Elmhurst/Corona Queens 44.4
Williamsbridge/Baychester Bronx 44.3
Riverdale/Kingsbridge Bronx 43.7
Sheepshead Bay/Gravesend Brooklyn 43.5
Sunset Park Brooklyn 43.2
Throgs Neck/Co-op City Bronx 43.1
Coney Island Brooklyn 43.0
North Shore Staten Island 42.7
Bayside/Little Neck Queens 42.6
Jackson Heights Queens 42.6
Pelham Parkway Bronx 42.5
Morrisania/East Tremont Bronx 42.3
Hillcrest/Fresh Meadows Queens 42.3
Mid-Island Staten Island 42.0
Bedford Stuyvesant Brooklyn 41.9
North Crown Heights/Prospect Heights Brooklyn 41.9
Forest Hills/Rego Park Queens 41.7
Mott Haven/Hunts Point Bronx 41.6
University Heights/Fordham Bronx 41.6
Washington Heights/Inwood Manhattan 41.4
South Crown Heights Brooklyn 41.2
Flatbush Brooklyn 40.9
New York City  40.3
Bushwick Brooklyn 40.3
Highbridge/S. Concourse Bronx 40.0
Middle Village/Ridgewood Queens 39.4
Astoria Queens 38.3
Park Slope/Carroll Gardens Brooklyn 38.0
Flushing/Whitestone Queens 37.7
Sunnyside/Woodside Queens 37.4
Williamsburg/Greenpoint Brooklyn 36.2
Brooklyn Heights/Fort Greene Brooklyn 36.0
East Harlem Manhattan 35.1
Borough Park Brooklyn 35.1
Central Harlem Manhattan 34.4
Morningside Heights/Hamilton Heights Manhattan 33.1
Upper West Side Manhattan 31.8
Upper East Side Manhattan 31.8
Lower East Side/Chinatown Manhattan 30.1
Chelsea/Clinton/Midtown Manhattan 27.8
Stuyvesant Town/Turtle Bay Manhattan 27.0
Greenwich Village/Financial District Manhattan 26.1


Method of Transit by Neighborhood of Residence, 2014
Neighborhood Borough Mass Transit Drive or Taxi Walk/Bike
East Harlem Manhattan 78% 10% 12%
Central Harlem Manhattan 77% 10% 11%
Highbridge/S. Concourse Bronx 77% 17% 5%
Washington Heights/Inwood Manhattan 77% 12% 10%
Upper West Side Manhattan 76% 11% 12%
Morningside Heights/Hamilton Heights Manhattan 76% 10% 13%
Mott Haven/Hunts Point Bronx 74% 14% 11%
Kingsbridge Heights/Mosholu Bronx 74% 15% 10%
Brooklyn Heights/Fort Greene Brooklyn 73% 14% 13%
Sunnyside/Woodside Queens 73% 23% 4%
Brownsville/Ocean Hill Brooklyn 72% 23% 5%
Bushwick Brooklyn 72% 14% 13%
South Crown Heights Brooklyn 72% 19% 9%
East New York/Starrett City Brooklyn 72% 23% 4%
North Crown Heights/Prospect Heights Brooklyn 72% 16% 12%
Park Slope/Carroll Gardens Brooklyn 71% 13% 15%
University Heights/Fordham Bronx 71% 17% 9%
Astoria Queens 71% 21% 8%
Bedford Stuyvesant Brooklyn 70% 17% 12%
Sunset Park Brooklyn 69% 16% 13%
East Flatbush Brooklyn 68% 28% 4%
Morrisania/East Tremont Bronx 68% 22% 10%
Elmhurst/Corona Queens 67% 23% 9%
Williamsburg/Greenpoint Brooklyn 66% 20% 14%
Jackson Heights Queens 64% 27% 8%
Flatbush Brooklyn 63% 28% 9%
Forest Hills/Rego Park Queens 61% 33% 5%
Bensonhurst Brooklyn 61% 30% 8%
Soundview/Parkchester Bronx 61% 34% 4%
New York City  59% 29% 11%
Bay Ridge Brooklyn 59% 31% 10%
Upper East Side Manhattan 59% 15% 25%
Kew Gardens/Woodhaven Queens 58% 36% 6%
Riverdale/Kingsbridge Bronx 57% 33% 9%
Greenwich Village/Financial District Manhattan 57% 9% 34%
Middle Village/Ridgewood Queens 57% 37% 6%
Lower East Side/Chinatown Manhattan 56% 10% 34%
Chelsea/Clinton/Midtown Manhattan 54% 10% 35%
Williamsbridge/Baychester Bronx 53% 41% 6%
Jamaica Queens 52% 44% 3%
Pelham Parkway Bronx 52% 40% 7%
Coney Island Brooklyn 51% 34% 14%
Sheepshead Bay/Gravesend Brooklyn 51% 38% 10%
Flatlands/Canarsie Brooklyn 51% 44% 4%
Stuyvesant Town/Turtle Bay Manhattan 51% 8% 40%
Borough Park Brooklyn 49% 28% 22%
Hillcrest/Fresh Meadows Queens 44% 48% 7%
Throgs Neck/Co-op City Bronx 42% 51% 6%
Howard Beach/S. Ozone Park Queens 42% 53% 4%
Rockaways Queens 40% 53% 4%
Flushing/Whitestone Queens 37% 49% 14%
North Shore Staten Island 36% 60% 4%
Bellerose/Rosedale Queens 34% 65% 1%
Bayside/Little Neck Queens 34% 63% 3%
Mid-Island Staten Island 32% 65% 3%
South Shore Staten Island 22% 76% 1%


Share of Residents Who Work from Home by Neighborhood, 2014
Neighborhood Borough Share of Residents Who Work from Home
Astoria Queens 3.8%
Bay Ridge Brooklyn 4.8%
Bayside / Little Neck Queens 4.0%
Bedford Stuyvesant Brooklyn 5.1%
Bellerose / Rosedale Queens 2.3%
Bensonhurst Brooklyn 2.4%
Borough Park Brooklyn 4.3%
Brooklyn Heights / Fort Greene Brooklyn 7.2%
Brownsville / Ocean Hill Brooklyn 2.4%
Bushwick Brooklyn 3.2%
Central Harlem Manhattan 3.9%
Chelsea / Clinton / Midtown Manhattan 8.2%
New York City   3.9%
Coney Island Brooklyn 1.9%
East Flatbush Brooklyn 3.1%
East Harlem Manhattan 3.4%
East New York / Starrett City Brooklyn 1.7%
Elmhurst / Corona Queens 0.5%
Flatbush Brooklyn 2.6%
Flatlands / Canarsie Brooklyn 2.9%
Flushing / Whitestone Queens 2.3%
Forest Hills / Rego Park Queens 4.4%
Greenwich Village / Financial District Manhattan 7.2%
Highbridge / S. Concourse Bronx 5.7%
Hillcrest / Fresh Meadows Queens 2.6%
Howard Beach / S. Ozone Park Queens 0.8%
Jackson Heights Queens 0.8%
Jamaica Queens 1.8%
Kew Gardens / Woodhaven Queens 4.5%
Kingsbridge Heights / Mosholu Bronx 5.7%
Lower East Side / Chinatown Manhattan 3.6%
Middle Village / Ridgewood Queens 2.4%
Mid-Island Staten Island 5.9%
Morningside Heights / Hamilton Heights Manhattan 6.0%
Morrisania / East Tremont Bronx 4.6%
Mott Haven / Hunts Point Bronx 3.5%
North Crown Heights / Prospect Heights Brooklyn 3.3%
North Shore Staten Island 1.2%
Park Slope / Carroll Gardens Brooklyn 8.4%
Pelham Parkway Bronx 2.4%
Riverdale / Kingsbridge Bronx 3.8%
Rockaways Queens 4.5%
Sheepshead Bay / Gravesend Brooklyn 4.3%
Soundview / Parkchester Bronx 2.8%
South Crown Heights Brooklyn 3.0%
South Shore Staten Island 1.2%
Stuyvesant Town / Turtle Bay Manhattan 7.8%
Sunnyside / Woodside Queens 1.9%
Sunset Park Brooklyn 2.6%
Throgs Neck / Co-op City Bronx 1.9%
University Heights / Fordham Bronx 3.7%
Upper East Side Manhattan 6.4%
Upper West Side Manhattan 9.3%
Washington Heights / Inwood Manhattan 4.6%
Williamsbridge / Baychester Bronx 1.8%
Williamsburg / Greenpoint Brooklyn 6.3%


Industry Share of New York City Jobs Filled by Non-City Residents, 2014
Industry Share of Employees Who Live Outside New York City
Utilities 40%
Finance and Insurance 38%
Public Administration 30%
Management of companies and enterprises 29%
Wholesale Trade 28%
Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services 28%
Construction 26%
Manufacturing 26%
Information 25%
Educational Services 21%
Average 21%
Transportation and Warehousing 21%
Real Estate and Rental and Leasing 20%
Administrative and support and waste management services 17%
Arts, Entertainment, and Recreation 16%
Personal Services and Repair Services 15%
Health Care and Social Assistance 15%
Retail Trade 15%
Accommodation and Food Services 10%


Average Commuting Time by Industry, 2014
Industry Average Commute Time
Finance and Insurance 51
Construction 50
Public Administration 48
Manufacturing 48
Information 47
Utilities 47
Administrative and support and waste management services 47
Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services 46
Average 45
Health Care and Social Assistance 44
Wholesale Trade 44
Transportation and Warehousing 44
Management of companies and enterprises 43
Personal Services and Repair Services 43
Accommodation and Food Services 43
Retail Trade 42
Real Estate and Rental and Leasing 41
Arts, Entertainment, and Recreation 41
Educational Services 40

This data brief is drawn from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2014 American Community Survey.
Average commuting times exclude those who do not work or work from home.