25 Best and Worst Commuter Cities in North Carolina
With an average commute time of 23.4 minutes, North Carolina is the 25th most commuter friendly state in the U.S. But we found 25 Tar Heel cities where getting to and from work takes roughly 19 minutes. That’s 20 percent faster than the state average and 25 percent faster than the national norm of 25.2 minutes.
We also discovered that in more than half of the state’s best commuter cities, workers get from home to the office in less than 15 minutes and eight in 10 make the trip in 29 minutes or less. One reason these cities boast short commutes could be due to the high rate of workers who carpool. Nearly 14 percent of workers share a ride to the office, which is 30 percent higher than the national average.
Commute time is more important than you might think. In addition to elevating stress levels and impacting overall quality of life, a long commute may increase your auto insurance premium. On the other hand, if you spend less time commuting you may enjoy more competitive auto insurance rates, and that’s why we’re spotlighting the best commuter cities in North Carolina.
To determine which cities made the 25 Best Commuter Cities in North Carolina list, Obrella analyzed traffic data from the most recent U.S. Census Bureau survey and then identified cities in North Carolina with a population of 5,000 residents or more at the time of the 2013 Census Survey.
How Commute Length Affects Auto Insurance Premiums
When you get a car insurance quote, one question you’ll be asked is how far you drive to work. That’s because there’s a correlation between how much time you spend on the road and the chance you’ll be involved in an accident. If you have a long commute, you may be considered an increased risk by your insurance provider. Because your risk level is one the top factors in determining your car insurance rates, you may see an increase in your yearly premiums. When you compare auto insurance rates, it’s important to provide each agent with the same, accurate estimate of how far you commute.
If a job change or move lengthens your commute, your monthly insurance premium could go up by as much as $10 per month. To learn more about how the length of your commute may impact your auto insurance premium, get in touch with your North Carolina car insurance company.
How Commute Length Affects Quality of Life
A higher auto insurance premium is just one way a long commute can negatively impact your life. Here are a few others.
- According to a Swedish study, when one partner in a marriage spends 45 minutes or more commuting, there is a 40 percent greater chance the relationship will end in divorce.
- The University of California Los Angeles and California State University Long Beach carried out research that revealed the number of miles driven each day had a stronger correlation with obesity than any other aspect analyzed.
- Research conducted by Political Scientist Robert Putnam found that people who endure lengthy commutes have fewer “social connections” than those with shorter commutes. He also discovered that a person’s social connections are reduced by 10 percent for every 10 minutes they spend getting to or from work.
- A Gallup Poll reveals that people who spend more than 90 minutes getting to work are at greater risk for neck problems and chronic back pain.
- Research from Thomas James Christian of Brown University notes that every additional minute of a commute is associated with a decrease in time spent carrying out healthy activities, such as exercising, preparing meals, and resting.
- Workers with long commutes are more likely to feel tired, experience anxiety, and less enjoyment than people who have shorter commutes.
Whether you want to pay less for auto insurance, reduce stress, or both, the time might be right to brainstorm ways to shorten your commute. Get started by taking a look at these 25 cities in North Carolina where workers enjoy a commute that’s significantly less than the national average.
The 20 Best Commuter Cities in North Carolina
#1 – Boone
The best commuter city in North Carolina is also praised for its outstanding schools, quality medical facilities, and unending recreation opportunities. Boone is home to Appalachian State University. So we weren’t surprised to learn that many locals are employed in the education field and that nearly 50 percent of adults have attained at least their bachelor’s degree. That’s nearly twice the national average. In addition to education, tourism related jobs are prevalent in Boone.
Thanks to a strong, diverse economy, residents don’t have to travel far to find work. Nearly seven out of 10 get to work in less than 15 minutes and nine in 10 make the trip in 29 minutes or less.
#2 – Jacksonville
Jacksonville is a waterfront community located in Eastern North Carolina. As one of the biggest cities in the region and home to two military bases, Jacksonville residents tend to work locally. Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune and Marine Corps Air Station New River are two of Jacksonville’s major employers, and many industries support the city’s strong military presence. In recent years, Jacksonville leaders have worked diligently to advance Jacksonville’s downtown area, and the Onslow Economic Development Commission continues to spearhead efforts that attract diverse industries.
It isn’t uncommon for civilians to carpool to work at either of the military bases, which could account for Jacksonville’s exceptionally high rate of carpoolers. More people sharing rides means less cars on the road. That explains why the average Jacksonville worker spends 40 percent less time commuting than the average American with a beautiful beach life waiting for them after work.
#3 – Havelock
Havelock offers easy access to the state’s popular Crystal Coast beaches, a low cost of living, and a crime rate that’s well below the national average. It’s also home to the world’s largest air station, Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Cherry Point, which is one of Havelock’s, and the state’s, principal employers. Similar to Jacksonville, Havelock has a noteworthy rate of carpoolers. In fact, at 19.51 percent, the community has the highest rate of carpoolers of all the cities on our list. Havelock City has a median household income of $54,602 and a median home cost of just $132,500.
#4 – Tarboro
Tarboro is one of the most well established communities in the Tar Heel State. Small, friendly, and affordable, Tarboro residents enjoy all the perks of a tightly-knit community plus convenient access to the state capital of Raleigh and Interstate 95. They also benefit from short commutes.
Whether residents choose to work locally, or in a nearby town like Rocky Mount, the typical worker gets to the job seven minutes faster than the average American. And soon locals may enjoy even shorter commutes thanks to the development of The Tarboro Commerce Center. This first-class Certified Industrial Site is expected to expand the number of local jobs.
#5 – Goldsboro
Goldsboro has been recognized as a Top Ten City by “Money” magazine and is home to the 4th Fighter Wing of Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, one of the most distinguished fighter units in the world. The Air Force Base is the region’s largest employer and many local jobs support the base and its military families. Similar to our other military cities, Goldsboro’s rate of commuters is much higher than the national average, and that’s probably why six in 10 workers get from home to the office in less than 15 minutes.
#6 – Lenoir
In Lenoir, economic development is a top priority. That not only means the city is committed to helping create local jobs, it also makes Lenoir a great place to move if you want to launch a business. Incentive grants and development opportunities make Historic Downtown Lenoir particularly appealing to entrepreneurs. Set up shop in Lenoir and there’s an 83 percent chance your commute will take 29 minutes or less, so you’ll have more free time to enjoy the area’s abundant natural beauty, including the famous Pisgah National Forest.
#7 – Conover
Conover is dissected by Interstate 40, which offers commuters easy access to much larger cities like Hickory and Statesville. But thanks to local investments, like the $6.4 million dollar Conover Station Redevelopment Project, many residents choose to work right in Conover. Recognized as 2015 Harvard Ash Center Bright Idea in Government project, the city purchased an abandoned downtown mill building and transformed it into a LEED certified space that includes a state of the art library, a pioneering job creation facility, and an additional $4.4 million dollar commercial building and fitness center. With the creation of more local job opportunities, Conover residents may soon enjoy even faster commutes.
#8 – Morehead City
Morehead City is a charming port town situated near the North Carolina coast. It’s surrounded by water on three sides, which makes commuting to another city for work rather inconvenient. However, Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Cherry Point is only 17 miles away, and it isn’t uncommon for those who work there to live in Morehead City, which could account for the city’s high rate of commuters.
The Port of Morehead City, Carteret General Hospital, and Carteret Community College are a few of the city’s major employers and the tourism industry supports a notable number of jobs.
#9 – Hickory
Hickory deserves a shootout for being named the number one city on “Forbes” Cost of Doing Business list. It has also been honored as one of the nation’s top 200 Best Places for Business and Careers. With all that Hickory has to offer, it’s no wonder residents stick close to home when it comes to employment, and are rewarded with a commute that’s roughly 35 percent shorter than most American’s.
Although Hickory’s furniture industry isn’t as robust as it once was, it is still known as the country’s leading furniture manufacturing city. In fact, furniture manufacturers and their suppliers, like HSM Solutions, Century Furniture, and Ethan Allen, are huge employers in this town.
#10 – Brevard
The scenic town of Brevard was recently named “One of America’s Coolest Outdoor Towns” and “The Best Place to Raise an Outdoor Family.” Kudos like these are due in part to the fact that Brevard flanks the eastern edge of the Pisgah National Forest. That makes it perfect for nature lovers and recreation enthusiasts, but inconvenient for workers who want to commute to nearby cities. As a result, many people who live in Brevard also work there.
With all there is to do in Brevard, locals are sure to appreciate that the average commute is just 19 minutes and almost six in 10 workers enjoy a commute of less than 15 minutes.
#11 – Roanoke Rapids
Roanoke Rapids is bordered by the Roanoke River and Roanoke Lake, which offer residents a plethora of leisure activities. But they can still access Interstate 95 and Highway 158, so commuting to nearby towns like Gaston and Weldon doesn’t take long. Residents who work locally are likely to be employed by corporations such as Kapstone Paper and Packaging, New Dixie Oil Corporation, or Don Pancho Authentic Mexican Foods, and enjoy a commute that’s six minutes faster than workers in most American cities.
#12 – Pinehurst
Pinehurst offers a pro-business environment, exceptional medical facilities, and an award winning police department that works diligently to ensure Pinehurst remains one of the safest cities in North Carolina. It also boasts short commutes, and that could be due to Pinehurst’s high percentage of telecommuters. In fact, at 7.12 percent, Pinehurst’s rate of virtual workers is nearly three times that of the average city on our list.
#13 – Aberdeen
Halfway between North Carolina’s mountains and coastline, you’ll discover the commuter friendly city of Aberdeen. If you’re a budding entrepreneur looking for a place to start your small business, you may have found it. Aberdeen offers free seminars and training opportunities to its citizens, ranging from business finance to how to leverage social media, plus a robust Small Business Center. Launch your business in Aberdeen and there’s a good chance you’ll make it to the office 10 minutes faster than the typical U.S. worker.
#14 – Rockingham
Rockingham is the County Seat of Richmond County, a progressive business focused county located off Interstate 75, near the South Carolina boarder. Thanks to a diverse industry base, residents enjoy a variety of employment opportunities right in their own backyards. Perdue Products Incorporated and Burlington Industries are two of the region’s larger employers. Another is Global Packaging, which recently announced a $13 million investment into its nearby manufacturing facility that’s expected to create dozens of jobs. Plus, more than 200 new jobs are anticipated when the construction of a $100 million dollar solar complex gets underway.
Over 80 percent of Rockingham’s citizens commute for 29 minutes or less and 57 percent enjoy a drive into the office that’s less than 15 minutes. But with all the business activity taking place in Rockingham, we wouldn’t be surprised if commutes become even shorter.
#15 – Waynesville
Vibrant, friendly, and historic describe Waynesville, North Carolina. It’s one of the largest cities in Western North Carolina, so people tend to commute into Waynesville rather than out of it. That helps keep the average commute to 19.7 minutes. Plus, Waynesville boasts one of the highest percentages of carpoolers among the best commuter cities in North Carolina, and an above average rate of telecommuters. These are more reasons Waynesville enjoys short commutes.
Thanks to easy Interstate 40 access, a nearby Certified Industrial Park, and top-notch vocational and technical training programs, the manufacturing sector is particularly strong in Waynesville.
#16 – Greenville
Greenville is situated in the largest concentration of people and industry in Eastern North Carolina. It’s honored as one of the nation’s Best Small Places for Business and Careers and noted for its low cost of doing business. The recent announcement of a $1.1 million dollar Rural Jobs Accelerator project will only add to Greenville’s already attractive business environment.
Greenville is home to East Carolina University and Vidant Health, so in addition to opportunities in the manufacturing of things such as pharmaceuticals, boats, and fertilizer, jobs in healthcare and education are common. Plenty of local jobs mean residents spend less time behind the wheel. In fact, most Greenville workers commute 12 minutes less per day than the average American.
#17 – Wilmington
Situated on the Cape Fear River and just moments from a handful of beaches, Wilmington is a historic port city that’s enjoyed a population increase of more than 40 percent since 2000. In addition to its ideal location, Wilmington has become popular because it’s considered a good place to find a professional job. Global corporations such as Corning, Verizon Wireless, and GE Hiatchi Nuclear Energy are all located in Wilmington.
We were pleased to find out that Wilmington is developing a number of city-wide trails and a greenway system to encourage residents to walk or bike to work and leave their cars parked at home. This could further reduce the average commute time, which is already five minutes faster than residents of most communities experience.
#18 – Asheville
Due to Asheville’s location in the Blue Ridge Mountain range, travelling to another city for work isn’t very convenient. So, many Asheville residents work locally. The University of North Carolina at Asheville and Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College are two major employers, and a sizable portion of the population enjoys work in tourism-related businesses.
If Asheville’s hip college vibe convinces you to relocate, there’s an eight in 10 chance your commute will be 29 minutes or less.
#19 – Washington
Washington is a quaint community located on the Pamlico and Tar Rivers, in an area known as the inland coastal region. Due to its rather isolated location, Washington residents typically work close to home, and are often employed in water related industries or in those that support the region’s growing tourism sector.
At almost 59 percent, Washington residents can boast that among the state’s best commuter cities, their community enjoys one of the highest percentages of workers who get to the office in less than 15 minutes.
#20 – Laurinburg
Situated in the Sandhills region of the Tar Heel State, Laurinburg is a three-time All American City that blends quiet small town living with easy access to larger cities as well as the mountains. Agriculture has been an important part of Laurinburg’s economy for centuries, but it’s also evolved into a forward thinking business community that takes pride in its diversified industry.
If you aren’t already living here, you could join the 16,000 proud people who call Laurinburg home. Once you do, there’s an 85 percent chance your trip to work will take 29 minutes or less.
#21 – Hendersonville
Hendersonville is located near the mountains of the Southern Appalachians, approximately 25 miles south of Asheville. The charming town of roughly 11,000 is respected as one of the state’s first Main Street communities. Nearly three decades have passed since the Main Street community was founded and, during that time, Downtown Hendersonville matured into an economically vibrant, cultural hub with a reputation for locally owned restaurants, galleries, and boutiques.
Not only does their downtown scene have these great things worth spotlighting, but we also salute Hendersonville residents for their carpooling efforts. An impressive 15 percent of residents carpool, which is roughly 50 percent more than the national average. That might be why 47 percent get to work in less than 15 minutes and a mere three percent commute for longer than 60 minutes.
#22 – Morganton
Similar to Hendersonville, Morganton has earned recognition as a North Carolina Main Street community for over 30 years. During that time, the Main Street program has infused over $60 million dollars of both public and private funds into Morganton’s downtown. The program even provides grants to local businesses owners to help boost tourism.
Set up shop in Morganton and you’ll get to work in roughly 20 minutes, or about 20 percent faster than most U.S. workers. Plus, you’ll enjoy all the perks of big cities services wrapped in a tightly-knit community.
#23 – Burlington
Burlington is located off Interstate 85, roughly halfway between Durham and Greensboro. It’s a well-established community where industry is growing. Major sectors include bio-science, healthcare and education. In fact, Burlington is home to LabCorp, which employees roughly 3,000 workers, and Elon University is just a short drive away.
In addition to an ideal location and diverse job opportunities, Burlington also offers a cost of living that’s 11 percent lower than the national average. There are also a number of local parks and charming downtown district. Best yet – If Burlington is home, there’s a 50 percent chance you’ll commute for less than 15 minutes.
#24 – Chapel Hill
The fact that Chapel Hill’s transit system is fare-free could be why a higher percentage of its residents use mass transit to get to work than any other city on our list. In fact, 6.57 percent of Chapel Hill’s workers commute via mass transit, while the average among the cities on our list is 3.78 percent.
To help further minimize city traffic, Chapel Hill recently adopted the Chapel Hill Bike Plan. A component of the city’s “2020 Comprehensive Plan,” one goal of the Chapel Hill Bike Plan is to cultivate a culture where bicycling is a more viable transportation choice for commuters. We were delighted to learn the city is using a Wiki Mapping Project to get citizen input on how to improve bicycle and pedestrian safety through the city.
#25 – Black Mountain
Black Mountain is flanked by the Pisgah Nation Forrest to its north, but Interstate 40 provides commuters with an easy drive to cities like Asheville. Those who chose to work in Black Mountain enjoy a range of employment options, from positions in manufacturing to technology and the service sector. And soon they could have the chance to leave their car at home and walk or bike to work. The city is outlining a plan to make the community more pedestrian and bicycle friendly, and they’re asking for resident’s help to make sure it’s as effective for people as it can be.
Black Mountain has nearly twice the rate of telecommuters when compared to the other cities on our list, and four in 10 workers commute for less than 15 minutes.
Which are the Worst Commuter Cities in North Carolina?
Just like the best commuter cities in North Carolina, the worst commuter cities are located in every region of the state. As a whole, the worst commuter cities averaged a much higher rate of telecommuters than the best cities, which give us the impression that workers are starting to find creative ways to avoid long commutes.
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To determine the rankings, Obrella analyzed traffic data from the 2013 survey released by the U.S. Census Bureau. Considering only North Carolina cities whose population exceeded 5,000 at the time of this report, Obrella analysts sorted cities by average commute time and used other available data points to help visualize the breakdown of commute types and commute lengths. Please contact [email protected] with any questions about this report.
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