15 Cities for People Who Hate Driving and Long Commutes

Where to go if you don't want to spend a lot of time behind the wheel


Slide Show: Commuter-Friendly Cities

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Portland, Ore.

Average commute time: 24.1 minutes
Non-car commuters: 22.7 percent Portland has become famous as a mecca for the hip and artistic. But even if the average resident doesn't fit that stereotype, they all benefit from shorter commutes, owing to fewer people on the road. "Cities like Portland have a higher percentage of people working at home," says Pisarski. "They're at home working on the next great American novel." The city also has a well-developed mass transit system for a city of its size: Portland's light rail system is the third-largest in the country by passenger miles, ahead of systems in bigger cities such as San Diego, St. Louis, and Dallas.

Ames, Iowa

Average commute time: 15.3 minutes
Non-car commuters: 22.6 percent Ames, home to Iowa State University, is the smallest city on this list with just over 50,000 in population. The town's size makes it more impressive that CyRide, Ames's bus agency, broke its all-time record of ridership by transporting more than 5 million people by the end of its last fiscal year. More than 10 percent of Ames's commuters walk to work.

Madison, Wis.

Average commute time: 18.7 minutes
Non-car commuters: 21.9 percent Despite its rough winters, Wisconsin is big on bicycles. The League of American Bicyclists ranked the state second among the country's most bike-friendly states. Madison is arguably the biggest biking city in Wisconsin, with an extensive system of bike lanes covering the city (National Public Radio dubbed it a "biker's paradise"). In 2007, Prevention magazine named Madison the most walkable city in America. Another plus: Madison's Metro Transit bus system has real-time arrival times commuters can access online.


Average commute time: 23 minutes
Non-car commuters: 21.7 percent With a land area of just 85 square miles and a population of less than 400,000, Honolulu is compact enough that commuting isn't tough. TheBus transit system, with ridership of more 70 million annually, makes it even easier. TheBus has twice been named "America's Best Transit System" by the American Public Transportation Association.

Provo, Utah

Average commute time: 16.2 minutes
Non-car commuters: 21.4 percent The center of the second-largest metro area in Utah is not well known for public transportation. Only recently has the city government been discussing plans for a bus rapid transit system that would become operational in 2012. But many Provo commuters don't need public transit to get to work without driving: More than 13 percent of the city's workers walk, putting Provo in the top 10 of all U.S. cities for pedestrian commuters.

Eugene, Ore.

Average commute time: 16.9 minutes
Non-car commuters: 20.7 percent Eugene makes the list because it has many of the same traits of other cities with short commutes and relatively low car use. Home to the University of Oregon, Eugene is a small city of only about 40 square miles. Its size and culture mean that there are plenty of people interested in biking and walking rather than burning gas for a few short miles.

Syracuse, N.Y.

Average commute time: 16.3 minutes
Non-car commuters: 20.1 percent Syracuse does not have a transit system beyond buses, and it's not particularly compact. But it makes the list for a number of other reasons. The 2000 census found Syracuse to be the 12th in the country in terms of having the most pedestrian commuters—just one spot behind New York City. More than 10 percent of Syracuse's commuters walk to work. Also, while it's one of the largest cities in one of the largest states, Syracuse's metro area population is less than 1 million, so traffic isn't a huge issue. Finally, the city's Centro bus system connects workers to employment areas within the city and surrounding counties. Centro boasts ridership of 42,000 daily.

Corrected on 11/13/2009: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Boston's MBTA rapid transit system has two stops on two different lines in Cambridge. There are five stops on the Red Line and one stop on the Green Line in Cambridge.