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Alaska commute times below the national average, except for Mat-Su Borough residents

Posted: May 15, 2011 - 9:13pm

FAIRBANKS — Statistics compiled by the U.S. Census Bureau conclude that the average Alaska driver takes 17.9 minutes to get to work.

The typical Fairbanks driver spends less that that — about 17.4 minutes. But the driving champions are residents of the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, many of whom work in Anchorage and average 33.6 minutes to reach work.

The national rate for driving to work is 25.2 minutes.

Skagway drivers have the shortest average commute at 4.4 minutes. More than a third of Skagway residents walk to work in the compact southeast Alaska community.

Overall, Alaska drivers have it pretty good, according to the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.

“This is not surprising,” said state economist Neal Fried, who highlighted the figures in the Alaska Department of Labor newsletter for May. “Commuting has gotten worse and worse throughout the country.”

Average commutes were tallied from surveys between 2005 and 2009. Multiple years were needed to provide enough data to make surveys statistically significant in smaller Alaska communities, Fried said.

Rural areas and small towns, where many residents walk, typically had the lowest averages. The tallies lump commute times together for people who ride in private vehicles, take public transportation, walk, or commute by other ways — bikes, four-wheelers, snowmobiles, planes, motorcycles and boats.

Ethan Birkholz, the Alaska Department of Transportation planning chief for the Northern Region, said the statistics are one of many factors considered when the department evaluates road projects.

Only four states have quicker average commute times than Alaska: Nebraska, Montana, South Dakota and North Dakota.

New York has the longest average commute, at 31.4 minutes, followed by Maryland, New Jersey, Illinois and Massachusetts.

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