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Archive for Wednesday, November 21, 2001

Workers in Wichita spend less time commuting

November 21, 2001

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— Although the U.S. Census says Wichita drivers have the shortest commute of any in 64 cities in the country, some city officials say the numbers are misleading.

The Census 2000 Supplementary Survey released Monday found the typical Wichitan's 16.9 minute commute to be 30 percent shorter than the commute for the average American.

The numbers say a typical Wichita worker last year spent 55 hours less driving to and from work than a typical worker in another part of the country.

The longest commute in the country is in New York City, with an average of 39 minutes.

For the survey, 700,000 interviews were conducted last year, covering most American cities and counties with 250,000 or more residents.

But Wichita probably does not have the shortest commute time in America, said Jamsheed Mehta, chief transportation planner for the Metropolitan Area Planning Department. He said a margin of error in the survey could move the city to a different spot on the list.

Mehta also noted that the number doesn't include commuters who live outside the city limits a significant portion in the Wichita metropolitan area.

Other data in the survey shows that the average commute in Kansas is 17.7 minutes; in Sedgwick, Butler and Harvey counties which include and surround Wichita the commute is 17.6 minutes; Sedgwick County, 17 minutes; Johnson County, 20.8 minutes; and the 3rd Congressional district Johnson, Wyandotte, Miami and most of Douglas counties 20.1 minutes.

Until recently, Nathan Schultz helped manage a downtown Wichita bar. He said the drive from home took just four minutes, compared with a 45- minute commute he used to have in Denver.

"Really, it was one of the reasons I moved back because I hated the traffic," he said.

Because not every American city was included, and because the survey did not include complete results for metropolitan areas, census officials cautioned against drawing absolute conclusions. Officials also said sampling differences make it impossible to compare the data with 1990 census figures.

Census officials hope the survey can be conducted annually and eventually replace the long form used during the once-a-decade census.

Ann Gallagher, a research associate at the Center for Economic Development and Business Research at Wichita State University, said an annual census would be an important improvement for demographers.

"It's much better than estimates based on 10-year-old data," Gallagher said.

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