Los Angeles And The Rise Of The “Super-Commuter”: The Dramatic Increase In Our Long-Distance Workforce

One of the many attributes of libraries and archives is that they provide access to information which might not otherwise be discovered or accessed by those who benefit from it.

Even though a standard Google search can return thousands or millions of keyword search results, it still can’t drill down into research to highlight pertinent embedded information.

This week, we came across a new report from an unlikely place which sheds light on and important facet of local transportation — the commuting patterns of the Southern California workforce.

This week, the Rudin Center for Transportation Policy & Management at New York University’s Wagner School of Public Service has released a new report titled “The Emergence of the “Super Commuter.”

It defines a “super-commuter” as someone who commutes from one metropolitan area to another by car, rail, bus or air and looks at changes in super-commuting between 2002-2009.

While we have all heard anecdotal evidence of those who live in one place and work in another, this study highlights just how pervasive this phenomenon has become.

Super-commuting is not just the practice of the wealthy of powerful.  The changing structure of the workplace, advances in telecommunications, and the global pattern of economic life have made long-distance travel for work increasingly commonplace.

Here in Los Angeles, between 2002 and 2009, the number of super-commuters grew 77%.

Some facts about super-commuting as they relate to Los Angeles:

Los Angeles County ranks #2 among the ten largest U.S. metropolitan workforces by the rate of growth in super-commuters:  +76.7%

The greatest number of super-commuters working in Los Angeles are from the San Francisco and San Jose metropolitan areas

The largest total number of super-commuters to Los Angeles come from San Diego:  78,300 total

The San Jose-to-Los Angeles super-commute is the second largest by rate of growth in sheer numbers:  +7,600 — up 153%

The Sacramento-to-Los Angeles commute is the fastest growing in the state:  +10,400 — +170%

The entire 17-page report is worth reading.

It points out that Texas takes the top prize for super-commuting, in that 13.2% of the workforce in both Houston and Dallas is made up of super-commuters.  The number has tripled during the study period.

We checked and verified that Southwest Airlines currently runs 25 flights a day each way between Houston and Dallas (that’s 50 total!) – serving as a de facto interurban bus route for commuters between these cities which are 240 miles apart.

But super-commuters aren’t necessarily high-priced executives leading a jet-set lifestyle.  They tend to be quite young (less than 29 years old), but older age groups are showing signs of increase:

“The super-commuting population should not be perceived as elite business travelers, but rather more representative of middle-income individuals who may opt for more affordable housing and means of transportation, such as driving or intercity buses.”

These workers typically travel once or twice weekly for work since the workplace is no longer fixed in one location, but rather where the worker is situated.

The report notes that future planning decisions should consider metropolitan regions’ growth due to the increase of super-commuting and resultant inter-connectedness; while “twin cities” of the past typically sat 40 miles apart, the new “twin cities” stretch 100-200 miles away from one another, with ever-growing inter-commutes.

Plenty of transportation research regarding Southern California is produced right here in Los Angeles, but we occasionally find something like this report which is very relevant from afar — and we’re happy to share it with our community.

And a sidenote to consider:  What is the opposite of a “super-commuter?”

Mitchell L. Moss, the primary author of the report, commutes a grand total of three blocks from home — and walks to work.