Herald Journal - Enterprise Dispatch - Delano Herald Journal
Drive much? State releases survey of average commute distances for local cities
Jan. 17, 2011

By Starrla Cray
Staff Writer

DELANO, MONTROSE, MN – If you drive less than 22.2 minutes to get to work, congratulations: You’re below the state average for commute time.

The US Census Bureau released a 5-year American Community Survey (ACS) estimate Dec. 14 for the first time, making social, economic, housing, and demographic statistics available for every community in the nation.

Locally, Delano is only slightly above average, with a typical drive time of 25.4 minutes.

“I think the figures are not all that surprising,” Delano City Administrator Phil Kern noted, adding that Delano will likely always have commute times around average.

Many people who work in the metro area choose to live in Delano because they enjoy the small-town atmosphere and good public education, he explained.

In Wright County, the mean commute is 29.6 minutes. Carver County’s is also higher than average, at 25.1 minutes. In Meeker County, people drive 23.4 minutes to work on average, and in McLeod, they drive 20.6 minutes.

People in rural towns sometimes have farther commutes than workers who live in the Twin Cities, but the drive is worth it for most residents.

“Delano has a spirit of community, and people are willing to drive in terms of a commute to enjoy living in the community,” Kern said.

Montrose City Administrator Barb Swanson put it this way: “Do you want to be at home in a small, safe, quiet city and enjoy all that is part of rural life with excellent access to the night life of the Twin Cities, or would you prefer to live in the traffic jam 24/7? I think a little longer drive time gives you a little extra down time to change gears from career to home.”

The average Montrose resident spends 34.7 minutes getting to work. Nearby, the longest commutes were reported in New Germany, with an average of 40.6 minutes, and Waverly, with an average of 39 minutes.

“We believe that the commute time is higher than the state average because the centers where many of our residents tend to work – the Minneapolis area, St. Paul, St. Cloud – are about this distance away,” Waverly Mayor Connie Holmes noted. “Maple Grove and Plymouth are two other areas that our residents tend to work, and these areas are also over 30 miles away. Finally, many of our residents work in construction trades, where the jobs can be miles away.”

The data for the study was based on a rolling annual sample survey mailed to about 3 million addresses between Jan. 1, 2005, and Dec. 31, 2009. The estimates represent the average characteristics between that five-year period, not a single point in time.

Holmes said she’s not surprised by Waverly’s relatively high commute time, because it matches a resident survey done in the summer of 2008.

“At that time, nearly 60 percent of our residents who responded reported a commute distance of greater than 30 miles, with nearly a third of these reporting a commute of over 40 miles,” Holmes said.

Small cities with fewer local employment options have other features that attract residents, such as housing, education, and proximity to family.

A local survey of Mayer’s residents in 2008 showed that the most popular reason for choosing to live in Mayer was affordable housing, followed by rural/small town appeal. In Mayer, the average commuter drives 29.8 minutes to work.

Cokato is a nearby city with a relatively short commute, at an average of 19.1 minutes.

“Many employers are within 20 miles,” Cokato Museum Director Mike Worcester said.

Worcester said he’s one of the lucky few who walks to work each day.

“I live two blocks from my office,” he said. “I put a cap and gloves on, and I’m good to go. Not everyone has that advantage.”

“Local jobs are growing but are still lagging behind the number of workers,” Swanson noted. “It is the number-one goal of the region to increase employment along US Highway 12.  To that end, the cities of Delano, Montrose, Waverly, Howard Lake, Cokato, and Dassel have formed the ‘Best of 12’ organization to promote economic growth along the corridor to provide more jobs for local residents.”

In Delano, the largest employers include Landscape Structures, Delano Public Schools, Randy’s Sanitation, Solar Plastics, Sil-Pro, and Coborn’s.

“Delano has a good, local employment base,” Kern noted. “The success of local companies and expansion of manufacturers in recent years shows the local employment base is healthy and continuing to grow. “

One of Delano’s top priorities is to increase the number of living-wage jobs locally. In the past year alone, the community has added close to 40 jobs.

No matter how many local jobs are available, however, Delano will continue to be an attractive home for people who commute to the Twin Cities, according to Kern.

To view the data in detail, go to http://www.census.gov/newsroom/releases/archives/american_community_survey_acs/cb10-cn90.html

Reports for specific cities can be found by going to www.factfinder.census.gov.

How does your commute compare?
Here are the mean commute time estimates (in minutes) for local cities, as reported by the US Census Bureau’s 5-year American Community Survey (ACS).

• Cokato – 19.1

• Howard Lake – 23.4

• Winsted – 24.2

• Loretto – 25.2

• Dassel – 25.3

• Delano – 25.4

• Lester Prairie – 26.7

• Mayer – 29.8

• Watertown – 30.1

• Montrose – 34.7

• Waverly – 39

• New Germany – 40.6

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