The Best and Worst Cities for Commuting

We crunched the numbers to find out where in the world workers enjoy the most stress-free and cost-efficient ride to work


Delays. Soaring costs. Manspreading. These are just three of the hardships endured by commuters on a daily basis that make the journey to and from work a thoroughly miserable experience for many.

According to a report by the Independent Budget Office, in the 12-month period ending May 2017 straphangers in New York lost a combined 35,000 hours every weekday morning because of delayed subway trains. A figure up 45% compared to the same period in 2011/12.

But just how bad do workers in the Big Apple have it? Is a New Yorker’s commute any worse than a Londoner’s, or a Parisian’s? How does it compare to those faced by workers in West Coast cities such as Los Angeles and San Diego?

We set out to answer these questions once and for all with the most comprehensive study of commuting in global cities to date.

We looked at 74 commuter hotspots in 16 countries, analyzing seven data points. And while we couldn’t find any reliable figures on manspreading, the results paint a fascinating picture of commuting around the world.

▶View full ranking as a PDF

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▶Jump to: Methodology

The Top 10

The best cities for commuting
Rank
Country
City
Score
1France
Nice
11.05
2Ecuador
Cuenca
14.78
3Spain
Bilbao
15.08
4France
Toulouse
16.02
5Italy
Catania
17.82
6Italy
Bari
18.83
7France
Lyon
18.94
8Italy
Bologna
20.27
9France
Strasbourg
20.56
10UK
Leicester
24.47

Nice nabs the top spot

Already famed for its stunning architecture and world-class restaurants, Nice can now add ‘best city for commuting’ to the long list of things that make it such an appealing destination for Europeans.

Commuters in Nice enjoy fantastic value for money from the city’s transport network, paying on average just 1.25% of their monthly salary for a travel card — less than half of the 3.09% that New Yorkers fork out.

The average time spent traveling to and from work each day is a chilled 40 minutes, just about long enough to get in an episode of your favorite podcast, and road users spend only 22 hours stuck in traffic jams over the course of a year.

the best cities for commuting

Life’s a beach: Commuters in Nice enjoy the lowest cost of travel relative to earnings

The Bottom 10

The worst cities for commuting
Rank
Country
City
Score
65
UK
London
68.18
66USA
Miami
72.87
67Colombia
Cali
75.96
68Brazil
Brasilia
77.52
69Canada
Toronto
78.56
70Brazil
Salvador
78.71
71Turkey
Istanbul
81.78
72Brazil
Sao Paulo
83.71
73Colombia
Bogota
84.12
74Brazil
Rio de Janeiro
86.26

Commuters in Brazil Fare Worst

If you love pina coladas then by all means go to Rio. They’ve got buckets of the stuff there. But if journey times in excess of 90 minutes and extortionate fares aren’t your thing, then it’s probably best to avoid working in the city of carnival.

Rio ranks bottom on our list because of the high cost of public transport relative to earnings. A monthly travel card is priced around $55, which works out as 9.4% of the average net monthly salary.

Commuters spend 19 minutes a day waiting around for a bus or train, and when one finally arrives, they travel a full 12.3 km to the office. That’s the third longest journey undertaken by workers in any city in the study.

These poor figures are reflected across all Brazilian cities. Of the eight we looked at, seven rank in the bottom 20, with four in the bottom seven. And while there’s no denying that these results are pretty damning of the country's transport infrastructure, it’s worth noting that the average population size of Brazilian cities in the study is 6,246,760. In contrast, the seven French cities we analyzed, four of which are in the top 10, average 2,903,078 inhabitants.

The Story Stateside

So how do US cities compare?

Commuters in Miami — 66th on our list — fair worst, spending an average of 90 minutes traveling 26 km to and from the office each day. They pay a higher percentage of their salary towards the cost of a monthly travel card (4.38%) than workers in any other US city and spend a full 18 minutes hanging around for a bus or train.

Miami worst US city for commuting

Miami is the worst American city for commuting, ranking 66th overall

Minneapolis places a respectable 20th, thanks to an average daily commute time of 66 minutes and the relatively low cost of travel. But it’s in sunny San Diego where workers enjoy the best value for money, with a monthly travel card costing just 1.79% of monthly earnings. Nice is the only city where you’ll get more bang for your buck in this respect.

As you might expect, traffic is a problem right across the country. The US dominates the wrong end of the ranking for hours spent in congestion, with four cities in the bottom 10. Each year motorists in Los Angeles and New York spend on average 102 and 91 hours respectively stuck in jams — more than road users in Sao Paulo (86 hours), Bogota (75 hours) and Mexico City (58 hours).

But Still Better Than Canada

Americans can take comfort in the knowledge, though, that workers in Toronto are even more miserable when it comes to commuting. The city ranks 6th worst overall and is tied second last for average commute time (96 minutes), just ahead of Bogota.

A monthly travel card costs an eye-watering 6.5% of earnings — twice as much as the US average of 3.2% — and nearly three-quarters of commuters (73%) have to make at least one change as part of a single journey. That’s a higher proportion than in any American city.

How do US cities compare?
City
Average daily commute
time (minutes)

Cost of a monthly travel
card as a % of monthly salary

Hours spent in congestion
(over 240 days)

Overall rank
Minneapolis
66
2.39%
41
20
San Diego
70
1.79%
48
27
Denver
77
2.90%
36
35
Pittsburgh
73
4.01%
32
43
Portland
90
3.04%
50
49
Chicago
86
2.87%
57
50
New York
87
3.09%
91
57
Los Angeles
86
3.09%
102
60
Philadelphia
93
3.53%
37
62
Washington
86
4.18%
63
63
Miami
90
4.38%
64
66

Methodology

The study looks at 74 cities with a population size of more than 300,000, across 16 countries worldwide.

We used the Moovit Public Transport Index (150 million users worldwide) to find:

  • Average time spent commuting each day
  • Average time waiting for a bus or a train each day
  • Average journey distance (one way)
  • The percentage of commuters who make at least one change as part of a single journey

We used data from the Numbeo Cost of Living Index to calculate the average cost of a monthly travel card as a percentage of average net monthly salary.

We used the INRIX 2017 Global Traffic Scorecard to find the average number of hours spent in congestion over 240 commuting days.

The final ranking is weighted, with cost and time spent commuting judged to be the most important factors.

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