Considering Transit Ads? Here’s Where You’ll Reach the Most Commuters

January 9, 2018

About 7.5 million workers – or 5.1% of the workforce – commutes by public transportation on a typical workday, reports the Census Bureau in a recent data release highlighting results from its 2012-2016 American Community Survey 5-year estimates. But in some metro areas commuting rates are far higher.

We downloaded and sorted the data to determine the metropolitan statistical areas in which the largest share of workers commute on a typical day, excluding the use of taxis. (The Census Bureau defines metropolitan statistical areas as ones having at least one urbanized area of 50,000 or more inhabitants.)

The top 5 metro areas were:

  • New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA: 31% of workers commuting on a typical day;
  • San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA: 16.5%;
  • Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV: 14%;
  • Boston-Cambridge-Newton, MA-NH: 12.9%; and
  • Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, IL-IN-WI: 11.8%.

The data also reveals the top metro “divisions” in terms of worker commute rates. Metro divisions are smaller groupings of counties or equivalent entities within a metropolitan statistical area containing a single core with a population of at least 2.5 million. The top 5 were:

  • New York-Jersey City-White Plains, NY-NJ: 39.5%;
  • San Francisco-Redwood City-South San Francisco, CA: 23.1%;
  • Philadelphia, PA: 21.3%;
  • Boston, MA: 19.2%; and
  • Chicago-Naperville-Arlington Heights, IL: 14.4%.

Where Are Commute Times Longest?

During the 5-year period of analysis, the average commute time for workers was 26.1 minutes, representing a slight increase from 25.4 minutes during the previous 5-year period (2007-2011).

The longest average 1-way commute times were in these metropolitan statistical areas:

  • East Stroudsburg, PA: 38.6 minutes;
  • New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA: 35.9 minutes;
  • Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV: 34.4 minutes;
  • San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA: 32.1 minutes; and
  • Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA: 31.8 minutes.

Among metro divisions, the longest 1-way commute times were in:

  • New York-Jersey City-White Plains, NY-NJ: 37.1 minutes;
  • Silver Spring-Frederick-Rockville, MD: 34.6 minutes;
  • Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV: 34.4 minutes;
  • Dutchess County-Putnam County, NY: 33.9 minutes; and
  • Oakland-Hayward-Berkeley, CA: 33.5 minutes.

Recent data from PQ Media indicates that transit is the “hottest” out-of-home advertising location category on a global basis, owing to airport upgrades, digital signage deployments on rail systems, and growing taxi networks.

The Outdoor Advertising Association of America (OAAA) reports that there were more than 1 million out-of-home displays on buses last year and almost 365,000 in commuter rail and subway. Transit advertising accounted for 18% of total out-of-home advertising revenues in the US in 2015, according to a separate report [pdf] from the OAAA, or roughly $1.3 billion in revenues.

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