Chapel Hill, N.C.
Average commute time: 20.1 minutes
Non-car commuters: 26.2 percent
North Carolina is not usually thought of as a mass transit state, and with good reason—only 16 percent of workers commute without a car. But Chapel Hill is not typical. Triangle Transit provides bus and vanpool service throughout the entire Research Triangle area, which includes Raleigh and Durham. According to the census, more than 10 percent of Chapel Hill commuters walk to work.
Average commute time: 21.9 minutes
Non-car commuters: 24.2 percent
Long winters don't deter Minneapolis commuters from leaving their cars at home. Measured by passenger miles, the city has the 14th-largest light rail system and the 13th-largest bus system in the country, according to the American Public Transportation Association. The Census Bureau also ranks it second in the country for bicycle commuting among the 50 cities with the most commuters. For pedestrians, commuting in below-freezing temperatures is made easier by the fact that 80 blocks of downtown Minneapolis are connected by enclosed skyways that allow pedestrians to traverse the city in heated walkways without stepping outside.
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.
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.
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
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.