40 Best and Worst Commuter Cities in Illinois
The typical Illinois worker commutes 28.1 minutes, which is a few minutes longer than the national average of 25.2 minutes. But we discovered 40 Prairie State cities where residents spend almost 30 percent less time on the road to the office than most Americans.
Why do we worry about how long people are commuting? In addition to increased stress, a long commute can mean you’ll pay a higher car insurance premium. On the other hand, a short commute may reduce some of that stress and reward you with a more competitive auto insurance rate. Really, if you can spend more time enjoying the best parts of life rather than being behind the wheel, we think it’s worth noting. And that’s why we’re shining the spotlight on these 40 cities in Illinois.
To establish which cities made our list, we first identified cities that have at least 10,000 residents. Then we took at a look at traffic data from the most recent U.S. Census Bureau survey and selected the top 40.
How Commute Length Affects Auto Insurance Premiums
Insurance companies figure the more time you spend on the road, the greater risk you’ll be involved in a collision. In fact, if you increase your commute time, your monthly insurance premium could go up by as much as $10 per month. It’s important to tell your insurance agent an accurate estimate of how far you commute and if the commute time changes so your premium is accurate.
To understand the ins and outs of how your commute could impact your auto insurance premium, contact your Illinois auto insurance company.
How Commute Length Affects Quality of Life
Like many people, you may not give your commute much thought, but you should. There’s mounting evidence that long commutes may be detrimental to our lives.
- According to research conducted in Sweden, when one partner commutes 45 minutes or more, there is a 40 percent greater chance the marriage will end in divorce.
- Political Scientist Robert Putnam discovered social connections are reduced by 10 percent for every 10 minutes a person spends commuting.
- A Gallup Poll found that people who spend more than 90 minutes behind the wheel are at greater risk for chronic back pain and neck problems.
- Compared to workers with short commutes, researchers found that workers with long commutes are more likely to feel exhausted and less likely to feel enjoyment.
- A study conducted by the University of California Los Angeles and California State University Long Beach noted the number of miles driven each day had a stronger correlation with obesity than any other aspect they analyzed.
- Research from Thomas James Christian of Brown University reveals that every additional minute of a commute means a decrease in time spent on healthy activities, such as relaxing, exercising, and preparing meals.
Whether you’re looking to cut back on car related expenses, like gas and auto insurance, or you want to minimize your stress, these 40 cities in Illinois may give you the inspiration you need to shorten your commute.
The 40 Best Commuter Cities in Illinois
#1 – Macomb
The best commuter city in Illinois also has a reputation as a great place for families. In addition to a variety of recreation opportunities and an excellent school system, workers enjoy a commute that’s 11 minutes faster than that of most Americans. Less time behind the wheel means parents have more time to spend with their families.
#2 – Quincy
Gorgeous parks, historic neighborhoods, and a bustling downtown are a few reasons “Forbes” ranked Quincy the eighth best place to raise a family in the U.S. Another is the fact that residents spend 40 percent less time commuting than most Americans. Recent approval of nearly $6 million for transportation improvements could even further reduce the time it takes for Quincy commuters to get to work.
#3 – Effingham
Google named Effingham the “2014 eCity of Illinois” because of its strong online business community, and the way it leverages the Internet to develop its economy. If you launch a startup in this innovative business community, there’s a 7 in 10 chance you’ll get to the office in less than 15 minutes.
#4 – Carbondale
The Carbondale Office of Economic and Regional Development assists small businesses with their growth. Last year alone, the office helped 57 businesses launch or expand, provided 43 training seminars, and admitted two new high-tech tenants to its Small Business Incubator program. Local cutting-edge businesses are part of what make Carbondale great. And their workers are probably going to be happy to know they make it to work nearly 40 percent faster than most Americans.
#5 – Charleston
Charleston is a tight-knit community with superior schools and abundant recreation. Plus, it’s forward thinking transportation initiatives help Charleston commuters enjoy a trip to work that’s nearly 10 minutes faster than most Americans. These are just a few reasons the historic downstate community has been honored one of the country’s best micropolitan areas.
#6 – Galesburg
Galesburg supports local businesses with a diversely skilled and hardworking labor force, plus a well developed land and air transportation system. It’s also close to the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers and boasts a large rail system that employs nearly 900 people and manages 100 trains per day. With all these great modes of transportation, Galesburg workers are lucky to also enjoy short commutes. More than 60 percent of residents get to work in less than 15 minutes.
#7 – Champaign
Champaign is home to the University of Illinois’ Research Park, which received several high-profile awards for its innovative programs and creation of high-tech jobs. Increased local opportunities mean residents no longer have to travel far for good jobs. This may be why 9 out of 10 residents get to work in 29 minutes or less.
#8 – Urbana
In Urbana, over 10 percent of workers carpool and nearly 4 percent telecommute. Less cars on the road helps the average Urbana commuter get to the office 35 percent faster than workers in most American cities. With the impending roll-out of gigabit fiber-optic broadband, even more Urbana residents may choose to work from home, which could further reduce commute times.
#9 – Normal
Normal’s residents not only enjoy a diverse employment base, they also benefit from Uptown Station. This $49 million multimodal transportation hub connects Amtrak, local transit, high-speed rail, bicyclists, and pedestrians, and helps keep commute times to an enviable 16.8 minutes.
#10 – Mattoon
Historically, Mattoon’s economy was based on agriculture, but over the last few decades it’s also developed strong manufacturing and retail sectors. Mattoon’s diversity means residents have the chance to work locally. This could be why 86 percent of commuters get to their place of employment in 29 minutes or less.
#11 – Pontiac
Wonderful schools, a vibrant art community, and a bustling downtown are a few reasons those who settle in Pontiac tend to stay. Another is the availability of good local jobs, like those found at the Pontiac Correctional Center, Caterpillar, or Evenglow Lodge. Whatever line of work they choose, 7 in 10 Pontiac residents spend less than 15 minutes getting to work.
#12 – Bloomington
One of the many great kudos Bloomington received came from “Forbes,” which named the city the best place for business and careers in Illinois and in the nation. The great job opportunities here could be why Bloomington is also recognized as one of America’s fastest growing cities. Not only is it growing quickly, but residents don’t take too long to get to work either. Their average commute time in Bloomington is just 17.4 minutes.
#13 – Danville
Danville’s economic and employment initiatives support a multi-faceted economy that boasts opportunities in industries like manufacturing, education, and healthcare. No matter which industry they work in, nearly 60 percent of Danville commuters get to work in less than 15 minutes.
#14 – Sterling
Sterling’s economy was founded on industry, but it has diversified over the years. Today, Sterling’s commercial sector is thriving and has established itself as the region’s retail hub. Whether working there, or in a different industry, we were impressed to find that over 14 percent of Sterling workers carpool, which is nearly 50 percent more than the national average. This helps keep traffic congestion to a minimum and allows 6 in 10 residents to enjoy a commute that’s less than 15 minutes.
#15 – Jacksonville
Jacksonville offers low-interest loans that help qualified businesses launch or expand. This helps create new jobs, so locals don’t have to travel to another city for work. As a result, Jacksonville commuters get from home to their workplace eight minutes faster than the typical American worker.
#16 – Centralia
If you’re looking for a place to relocate or grow your business, Centralia’s Enterprise Zone may be it. Businesses located in the Enterprise Zone not only have access to a range of monetary incentives, they also benefit from a skilled labor pool. Transportation options in the area include the South Central Transit system, Amtrak, and the Centralia Municipal Airport. Thanks to these great choices, residents here spend 30 percent less time behind the wheel than most working Americans.
#17 – Freeport
Freeport offers residents access to excellent schools, state-of-the-art hospitals, and more than 800 acres of parks. It also boasts employers that range from major companies, like Newell and Rubbermaid, to small, locally-owned shops. The healthy mix of job opportunities gives Freeport residents the chance to stick close to home for work, which keeps their average commute to just over 18 minutes.
#18 – Mount Vernon
Mount Vernon is located near important transportation routes, which makes it appealing to large employers, including Continental Tire North American, Walgreens, and National Railway. Mount Vernon is also home to many agricultural operations and boasts a robust small businesses community. Whether heading to stock shelves at Walgreens or tend crops, locals get to their place of employment seven minutes faster than the average U.S. commuter.
#19 – Murphysboro
Murphysboro is a friendly, affordable, and progressive community that attracts residents and businesses alike. Best yet, the typical Murphysboro commuter gets from home to the office in 18.2 minutes, which is 28 percent faster than the average American worker.
#20 – North Chicago
Nestled on the shores of Lake Michigan, North Chicago is a mere 33 miles from downtown Chicago. Although there is a train into the Windy City, six percent of residents choose to work from home. Many others work locally at places like Abbott Laboratories, Rosalind Franklin University, or Procter and Gamble, three of the area’s major employers. North Chicago’s high percentage of telecommuters is part of what helps keep commute times to a minimum. Nearly 60 percent of people here spend less than 15 minutes getting to work, and 82 percent make the trip in 29 minutes or less.
#21 – Peoria
Peoria is an “All American City” situated along the Illinois River. Boasting one of the state’s oldest and most popular riverfront districts, Peoria residents enjoy a vibrant urban atmosphere that includes access to art, entertainment, and eateries. With all there is to see and do in Peoria, it’s a good thing residents spend a nominal 18.7 minutes commuting to work so they can spend more time on fun activities.
#22 – Decatur
Decatur has long been known as a leading agricultural community, but it’s also gaining a reputation as a regional hub for manufacturing and technology. Successfully blending the best of both worlds, Decatur offers diverse job opportunities and that give locals the chance to work in their own community. Because so many people stay close to home for work, most enjoy a commute that’s 26 percent faster than the average American’s.
#23 – Dixon
Dixon offers quality schools, plenty of recreation programs, and more parks per capita than any other town in the state. Add in the fact that parents spend 25 percent less time commuting than most Americans do, and it’s easy to see why families are attracted to living in Dixon.
#24 – Peru Township
Entrepreneurs who want to launch or expand a business in Peru benefit from a progressive business environment and access to development opportunities offered by the Illinois Valley Area Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development. These are just a few reasons Peru is ranked as one of the best places to start a business in Illinois. Peru’s thriving business climate means locals enjoy the convenience of living and working in the same town, and that keeps the township’s average commute time to 18.9 minutes.
#25 – Decatur Township
Millikin University, as well as a Lyle – a major Caterpillar production facility – are both part of Decatur Township’s diverse economic base. These businesses, as well as others in the area, helped the Township withstand downturns in the national economy that crippled other Midwest cities. In addition to the Township’s impressive assortment of jobs, we were pleased to discover the community’s high rate of carpoolers. Carpooling helps limit traffic congestion, and that’s one reason half of Decatur’s residents get to work in less than 15 minutes.
#26 – Kewanee
Whether they work at a local business, or commute to a nearby city, an impressive 14 percent of Kewanee workers carpool. That’s almost 50 percent more than the national average, and represents the second highest percentage of carpoolers on our list. With less cars on the road, it’s not surprising that 67 percent of Kewanee residents get to work in less than 15 minutes.
#27 – Moline
Moline is in eastern Illinois, nestled between the Mississippi and Rock Rivers. It’s unique location and diverse employment opportunities allow most Moline residents to stick close to home for work. Those who choose to commute to other cities can get there quickly thanks to the proximity of three Interstates. Either way, 9 in 10 Moline residents make it to work in 29 minutes or less.
#28 – South Rock Island
South Rock Island earns our respect for its variety of initiatives aimed at helping those who want to start or expand their business. One example is the Micro Commercial Industrial Revolving Loan Fund, which provides low interest loans to small business owners. South Rock Island’s progressive programs help keep jobs local, helping residents enjoy a short average commute of 19.2 minutes.
#29 – Springfield
Despite being the second most populated city on our list, the capital city of Springfield offers residents a commute that’s six minutes faster than most American cities. Add in the fact that Springfield residents enjoy one of the most affordable housing markets in the nation and plenty professional jobs in education and healthcare, and it’s easy to see why people don’t regret a move to Springfield.
#30 – Rock Island
Just this year, Rock City was recognized as one of the “Best Small Cities” in the country. One of the qualifications to make this list was quality of life and we can only imagine their average 19.2 commute plays a role in how happy their residents are. In 2014, Rock Island was named one of the “Most Exciting Places in Illinois,” so it’s great that residents don’t have to worry about lengthy commutes. Rock Islanders would likely rather be out enjoying all the great things their community has to offer instead of stuck in the car.
#31 – Lincoln
Lincoln is located along the famed Route 66, which offers workers convenient access to several big cities. Those who choose to stick close to home for employment may work at one of the area’s three universities or the Lincoln Correctional Center. Whether they commute to a nearby city or work locally, 64 percent of Lincoln residents commute for less than 15 minutes.
#32 – Rantoul
Rantoul’s Business Center is earning a reputation as a hub of innovation. Not only does it offer up-and-coming businesses high-tech office space, it also houses the Rantoul Business Incubator and the Illinois Small Business Development Center. With more high-tech jobs being created in the area, many Rantoul residents are working close to home. As a result, half of Rantoul workers commute for less than 15 minutes.
#33 – East Moline
As part of the city’s overall redevelopment strategy, East Moline’s “Façade Improvement Program” offers eligible property owners grants to their commercial buildings and storefronts. It’s initiatives like this that make East Moline a prime place for businesses. Growing their own economy and business structure is certainly helping residents enjoy a commute that’s 22 percent faster than the national average.
#34 – Marion
The commuter friendly city of Marion is dedicated to preparing its youngest citizens for the workplace. Marion recently broke ground on a new 330,000 square foot high school that will include a science and technology (STEM) lab, and technical and vocational educational center. Plus, it’s located in a Google Apps for Education School District, and plans to provide an iPad to every student by 2016. While the next generation is preparing to lead the way, the current one is working hard as well. No matter what industry Marion residents are in, over half of them get to work in less than 15 minutes.
#35 – East Peoria
There’s a lot of great things about this waterfront community, which is why there are several Caterpillar facilities. Residents may work with heavy equipment or students at East Peoria High School. And if someone isn’t interested in one of these roles, the city offers budding entrepreneurs a wealth of development opportunities and incentives. No matter where they work, residents here enjoy an average commute time of just 20.2 minutes.
#36 – Bradley
Bradley is a community known for its pro business climate and economic vitality. It is part of Kankakee County, which was named Illinois’ top small metro for business in 2014. With a focus on business development, it’s not surprising that CSL Behring, a major area employer, recently announced plans for a $240 million dollar expansion. Bradley’s booming industry could be why its population increased by more than 20 percent over the last decade. Despite this growth, residents are still enjoying short commutes.
#37 – Streator
The leaders and citizens of Streator are proving it’s a “Great Small City in which to Live, Work and Invest.” In addition to excellent schools, a strong manufacturing base, and good healthcare, Streator will soon boast a small business incubator. And we just discovered something else they can be proud of. We were impressed to find Streator’s rate of carpoolers is more than the national average. Having less cars on the road could be why commuters here get to the office in 15 percent less time than most Americans.
#38 – Pekin
Pekin boasts a range of professional and industrial jobs, such as those found at Aventine Renewable Energy and PAL Health Technologies, two of the area’s major employers. Pekin’s city-owned Business Park and skilled labor force continually allure new businesses, which keeps the economy strong and means workers enjoy diverse job opportunities. With all the job opportunities in Pekin, residents tend to stay close to home for work. As a result, average commute time in Pekin is 21.3 minutes, which is four minutes faster than what most U.S. commuters face.
#39 – Rockford
The community’s “RockStat Meetings” are open to the public and media, which gives every resident the chance to discuss the efficiency and effectiveness of the city. Despite being the third largest city in Illinois and the most populated of any on our list, Rockford residents don’t have to spend a lot of time in traffic. In fact, 8 out of 10 residents here get to work in 29 minutes or less.
#40 – Herrin
Herrin is part of the sixth most populated area in the state. Even with all the people living here, they don’t have to spend too much time in traffic. In fact, they enjoy a commute that is four minutes faster than the national average. But you may have to wait a bit longer when over 60,000 people flock to the area for the annual Herrinfiesta Italiana celebration over Memorial Day weekend, which pays homage to the town’s Italian heritage.
40 Worst Commuter Cities in Illinois
Whether it’s because they live far from their workplace, face heavy traffic congestion, or a combination of the two, the average resident of the state’s worst commuter cities spends 20 more minutes getting to work than the typical resident of the best commuter cities in Illinois. But, there are several reasons why people choose to endure a long commute, like affordable housing and good schools, so we bet living in one of these communities offers its share of perks.
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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 Illinois cities whose population exceeded 10,000 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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