Wall Street Journal Gets US Commute Times Wrong

A March 1, 2023 article entitled As Americans Work From Home, Europeans and Asians Head Back to the Office appeared as the lead in the Wall Street Journal’s “In Today’s Paper” internet newsletter. The article noted:

“Suburban sprawl means many Americans have longer, more tedious commutes plagued by worsening traffic jams—another reason to stay home. While a number of European cities also have long average commutes, New York and Chicago are unmatched, according to mobility-services company Moovit Inc. Public-transit systems in Europe and Asia are often more reliable and less prone to delays, making it easier to get to work.”

I submitted a comment to The Wall Street Journal disputing this paragraph, which was about the 505th on the list.

“On the contrary, US commuting times are generally lower than elsewhere in the world, unlike indicated in this article. See for example: https://www.newgeography.com/content/002217-the-transportation-politics-envy-the-united-states-europe. The article only cites transit commuting times, when in most major urban areas a sizeable share of commuting is by car, which is generally faster than transit. The keys to the shorter commute times in the US are greater use of cars and dispersed employment. Lower densities (pejoratively referred to as sprawl) do not increase commute times, they reduce them (https://fcpp.org/files/1/PS135_Transit_MY15F3.pdf, table 8).

Wendell Cox is principal of Demographia, an international public policy firm located in the St. Louis metropolitan area. He is a founding senior fellow at the Urban Reform Institute, Houston, a Senior Fellow with the Frontier Centre for Public Policy in Winnipeg and a member of the Advisory Board of the Center for Demographics and Policy at Chapman University in Orange, California. He has served as a visiting professor at the Conservatoire National des Arts et Metiers in Paris. His principal interests are economics, poverty alleviation, demographics, urban policy and transport. He is co-author of the annual Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey and author of Demographia World Urban Areas.

Mayor Tom Bradley appointed him to three terms on the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission (1977-1985) and Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich appointed him to the Amtrak Reform Council, to complete the unexpired term of New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman (1999-2002). He is author of War on the Dream: How Anti-Sprawl Policy Threatens the Quality of Life and Toward More Prosperous Cities: A Framing Essay on Urban Areas, Transport, Planning and the Dimensions of Sustainability.