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Fast City, Slow Commute

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
NeighborhoodBoroughAverage Commute Time
Brownsville/Ocean HillBrooklyn48.2
Howard Beach/S. Ozone ParkQueens46.2
Kingsbridge Heights/MosholuBronx46.1
East FlatbushBrooklyn45.6
East New York/Starrett CityBrooklyn44.8
Kew Gardens/WoodhavenQueens44.6
South ShoreStaten Island44.6
Bay RidgeBrooklyn44.5
Sheepshead Bay/GravesendBrooklyn43.5
Sunset ParkBrooklyn43.2
Throgs Neck/Co-op CityBronx43.1
Coney IslandBrooklyn43.0
North ShoreStaten Island42.7
Bayside/Little NeckQueens42.6
Jackson HeightsQueens42.6
Pelham ParkwayBronx42.5
Morrisania/East TremontBronx42.3
Hillcrest/Fresh MeadowsQueens42.3
Mid-IslandStaten Island42.0
Bedford StuyvesantBrooklyn41.9
North Crown Heights/Prospect HeightsBrooklyn41.9
Forest Hills/Rego ParkQueens41.7
Mott Haven/Hunts PointBronx41.6
University Heights/FordhamBronx41.6
Washington Heights/InwoodManhattan41.4
South Crown HeightsBrooklyn41.2
New York City 40.3
Highbridge/S. ConcourseBronx40.0
Middle Village/RidgewoodQueens39.4
Park Slope/Carroll GardensBrooklyn38.0
Brooklyn Heights/Fort GreeneBrooklyn36.0
East HarlemManhattan35.1
Borough ParkBrooklyn35.1
Central HarlemManhattan34.4
Morningside Heights/Hamilton HeightsManhattan33.1
Upper West SideManhattan31.8
Upper East SideManhattan31.8
Lower East Side/ChinatownManhattan30.1
Stuyvesant Town/Turtle BayManhattan27.0
Greenwich Village/Financial DistrictManhattan26.1


Method of Transit by Neighborhood of Residence, 2014
NeighborhoodBoroughMass TransitDrive or TaxiWalk/Bike
East HarlemManhattan78%10%12%
Central HarlemManhattan77%10%11%
Highbridge/S. ConcourseBronx77%17%5%
Washington Heights/InwoodManhattan77%12%10%
Upper West SideManhattan76%11%12%
Morningside Heights/Hamilton HeightsManhattan76%10%13%
Mott Haven/Hunts PointBronx74%14%11%
Kingsbridge Heights/MosholuBronx74%15%10%
Brooklyn Heights/Fort GreeneBrooklyn73%14%13%
Brownsville/Ocean HillBrooklyn72%23%5%
South Crown HeightsBrooklyn72%19%9%
East New York/Starrett CityBrooklyn72%23%4%
North Crown Heights/Prospect HeightsBrooklyn72%16%12%
Park Slope/Carroll GardensBrooklyn71%13%15%
University Heights/FordhamBronx71%17%9%
Bedford StuyvesantBrooklyn70%17%12%
Sunset ParkBrooklyn69%16%13%
East FlatbushBrooklyn68%28%4%
Morrisania/East TremontBronx68%22%10%
Jackson HeightsQueens64%27%8%
Forest Hills/Rego ParkQueens61%33%5%
New York City 59%29%11%
Bay RidgeBrooklyn59%31%10%
Upper East SideManhattan59%15%25%
Kew Gardens/WoodhavenQueens58%36%6%
Greenwich Village/Financial DistrictManhattan57%9%34%
Middle Village/RidgewoodQueens57%37%6%
Lower East Side/ChinatownManhattan56%10%34%
Pelham ParkwayBronx52%40%7%
Coney IslandBrooklyn51%34%14%
Sheepshead Bay/GravesendBrooklyn51%38%10%
Stuyvesant Town/Turtle BayManhattan51%8%40%
Borough ParkBrooklyn49%28%22%
Hillcrest/Fresh MeadowsQueens44%48%7%
Throgs Neck/Co-op CityBronx42%51%6%
Howard Beach/S. Ozone ParkQueens42%53%4%
North ShoreStaten Island36%60%4%
Bayside/Little NeckQueens34%63%3%
Mid-IslandStaten Island32%65%3%
South ShoreStaten Island22%76%1%


Share of Residents Who Work from Home by Neighborhood, 2014
NeighborhoodBoroughShare of Residents Who Work from Home
Bay RidgeBrooklyn4.8%
Bayside / Little NeckQueens4.0%
Bedford StuyvesantBrooklyn5.1%
Bellerose / RosedaleQueens2.3%
Borough ParkBrooklyn4.3%
Brooklyn Heights / Fort GreeneBrooklyn7.2%
Brownsville / Ocean HillBrooklyn2.4%
Central HarlemManhattan3.9%
Chelsea / Clinton / MidtownManhattan8.2%
New York City 3.9%
Coney IslandBrooklyn1.9%
East FlatbushBrooklyn3.1%
East HarlemManhattan3.4%
East New York / Starrett CityBrooklyn1.7%
Elmhurst / CoronaQueens0.5%
Flatlands / CanarsieBrooklyn2.9%
Flushing / WhitestoneQueens2.3%
Forest Hills / Rego ParkQueens4.4%
Greenwich Village / Financial DistrictManhattan7.2%
Highbridge / S. ConcourseBronx5.7%
Hillcrest / Fresh MeadowsQueens2.6%
Howard Beach / S. Ozone ParkQueens0.8%
Jackson HeightsQueens0.8%
Kew Gardens / WoodhavenQueens4.5%
Kingsbridge Heights / MosholuBronx5.7%
Lower East Side / ChinatownManhattan3.6%
Middle Village / RidgewoodQueens2.4%
Mid-IslandStaten Island5.9%
Morningside Heights / Hamilton HeightsManhattan6.0%
Morrisania / East TremontBronx4.6%
Mott Haven / Hunts PointBronx3.5%
North Crown Heights / Prospect HeightsBrooklyn3.3%
North ShoreStaten Island1.2%
Park Slope / Carroll GardensBrooklyn8.4%
Pelham ParkwayBronx2.4%
Riverdale / KingsbridgeBronx3.8%
Sheepshead Bay / GravesendBrooklyn4.3%
Soundview / ParkchesterBronx2.8%
South Crown HeightsBrooklyn3.0%
South ShoreStaten Island1.2%
Stuyvesant Town / Turtle BayManhattan7.8%
Sunnyside / WoodsideQueens1.9%
Sunset ParkBrooklyn2.6%
Throgs Neck / Co-op CityBronx1.9%
University Heights / FordhamBronx3.7%
Upper East SideManhattan6.4%
Upper West SideManhattan9.3%
Washington Heights / InwoodManhattan4.6%
Williamsbridge / BaychesterBronx1.8%
Williamsburg / GreenpointBrooklyn6.3%


Industry Share of New York City Jobs Filled by Non-City Residents, 2014
IndustryShare of Employees Who Live Outside New York City
Finance and Insurance38%
Public Administration30%
Management of companies and enterprises29%
Wholesale Trade28%
Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services28%
Educational Services21%
Transportation and Warehousing21%
Real Estate and Rental and Leasing20%
Administrative and support and waste management services17%
Arts, Entertainment, and Recreation16%
Personal Services and Repair Services15%
Health Care and Social Assistance15%
Retail Trade15%
Accommodation and Food Services10%


Average Commuting Time by Industry, 2014
IndustryAverage Commute Time
Finance and Insurance51
Public Administration48
Administrative and support and waste management services47
Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services46
Health Care and Social Assistance44
Wholesale Trade44
Transportation and Warehousing44
Management of companies and enterprises43
Personal Services and Repair Services43
Accommodation and Food Services43
Retail Trade42
Real Estate and Rental and Leasing41
Arts, Entertainment, and Recreation41
Educational Services40

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.