Stuck in traffic? That's because 59% of us drive to work

June 21, 2012, 2:23 PM UTC

Rush-hour traffic jams and rising fuel costs haven’t put off 59% of Americans from driving to the workplace. The car is king for the majority of commuters – as only 5% use public transport to get to their jobs. The next most popular way of getting into work is on foot (10%).

We might have a reputation as a nation of gas guzzlers, but driving is often the only option for commuters who live outside a city or public transport links.

Whether it’s due to environmental concerns or convenience – liberals favor walking (15%) more than conservatives do (8%). In contrast, using the car is preferred by more right-wing workers (70%) than left-wing commuters (56%).

Anyone who’s endured the morning crush on the Subway would not be surprised to hear the Northeast has the highest proportion of public transport users (13%) in the country. Commuters in this region are relatively well served with the Subway, Amtrack, NJ transit and LIRR. The South simply doesn’t have that much public transport – which means workers are more likely to reach for their car keys in the morning (66%) than in any other region.

Fortunately for most of us (60%), getting to work takes 30 minutes or less. But for anyone facing a long journey in the mornings, take solace in the fact that you are more likely to be a high earner. When we look at household income it becomes clear people who earn less than $40,000 are unlikely to have a trip of longer than 30 minutes.

The link between long commuting times and higher wages could be a sign that transport costs are a barrier to some people looking for jobs outside their surrounding area. Or perhaps it is because higher earners tend to live in more expensive areas that are less built up – usually meaning a longer journey to the workplace.