25 Best and Worst Commuter Cities in Alabama
The average commute in Alabama lasts 23.9 minutes, which is slightly less than the national average of 25.2 minutes. While that is impressive, we identified 25 cities in The Heart of Dixie where commuters spend just 19.3 minutes getting to and from their job. To put the numbers in perspective, this means that over the course of a month, the typical U.S. worker commutes for nearly 17 hours, while those who live in Alabama’s best commuter cities spend only 12 hours on the road.
While no one likes commuting, most of us don’t realize how the length of a commute can impact our life in a number of ways. For example, in addition to being a hassle, a long commute can also be expensive. You’ll spend more money on gas and on vehicle maintenance, plus your auto insurance premium may increase. The good news is, a short commute is less aggravating, saves you money on gas and car maintenance, and may even make you eligible for a less-expensive auto insurance rate.
To spotlight the cities in Alabama that have average shorter commutes, we analyzed traffic data from the most recent U.S. Census Bureau survey and then identified cities 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 getting an auto insurance quote, the insurance agent will ask you how far you commute. They want this information because the longer you spend on the road, the greater the chance you’ll be involved in an accident. And, usually, drivers who are thought to be a greater risk to an insurance company pay higher auto insurance premiums than those who are deemed to be less of a risk.
If your commute time increases, your monthly auto insurance premium could go up by as much as $10, but it could also be reduced if you spend less time on the road. This is why it’s important to notify your insurance agent if your commute changes. Contact your Alabama auto insurance company to find out more about how your commute may impact your insurance premium.
How Commute Length Affects Quality of Life
Research has shown how a long daily commute may take a toll on your quality of life. These are some of the findings.
- A report from Thomas James Christian at Brown University states that every minute a person spends commuting decreases the time they spend engaged in healthy activities. These include things like resting, exercising, and preparing meals.
- A study conducted by the University of California Los Angeles and California State University Long Beach found the number of miles driven each day had a more significant correlation with obesity than any other factor analyzed.
- A Gallup Poll reveals that commuters who drive more than 90 minutes are at a higher risk for chronic back pain or neck problems.
- Erika Sandow, a social geographer, discovered that when one partner in a marriage commutes longer than 45 minutes a day, there is a 40 percent greater chance the marriage will end in divorce.
- Researchers found that compared to workers who have short commutes, those who have long commutes are less likely to feel enjoyment and more apt to be fatigued and anxious.
- A report by Political Scientist Robert Putnam states that, for every 10 minutes a worker spends commuting, their social connections decrease by 10 percent.
If you’re facing a long daily commute, take inspiration from these 25 cities in Alabama and brainstorm ways to reduce the time you spend behind the wheel to and from work.
The 25 Best Commuter Cities in Alabama
#1 – Andalusia
Andalusia not only boasts one of the best school systems in the state, it’s also recognized as the economic and business hub of Covington County, so locals don’t have to drive far for work. In fact, 62 percent of workers commute for less than 15 minutes. Andalusia recently completed its Downtown Revitalization Project, which could further increase local employment opportunities, resulting in even faster commute times.
#2 – Auburn
Alabama’s second best commuter city is famous for being the home of Auburn University. Beyond being a great location for education, Auburn is wonderful for career-minded folks who want a short commute. “Forbes” ranked Auburn as the 10th Best Small Place for Business and Careers in the U.S. in 2014 and CNNMoney named it one of the best cities in America for job growth. With all of these great job opportunities in the city, residents make it to the office eight minutes faster than most U.S. workers.
#3 – Monroeville
Monroeville is located along U.S. Highway 84, which is an important east-west trade corridor linking several southern states. This makes this city a desirable place for manufacturing and timber companies that need easy access to distribution routes. The health care industry is also booming in Monroeville. A diverse economy is one reason the community received designation as an “Alabama Community of Excellence” and why residents don’t have to drive far to find a job. In fact, the average Monroeville worker commutes a nominal 18.2 minutes.
#4 – Fort Payne
Fort Payne has a lot to offer employers, including a low cost of doing business, an excellent transportation system, and a skilled workforce. These are a few reasons national companies like The Children’s Place, Siemens, and Ferguson have large operations in Fort Payne. Thanks to local job opportunities, Fort Payne workers get to their place of employment almost 30 percent faster than most Americans.
#5 – Homewood
A rapid increase in population can adversely impact traffic flow, but that’s not the case in Homewood. Even though the population of Homewood grew significantly over the last two decades, nearly 90 percent of commuters get to work in 29 minutes or less and 40 percent make the trip in less than 15 minutes. Recommendations from the city’s new Transportation Plan will help ensure residents enjoy a safe and efficient roadway system for years to come.
#6 – Foley
Foley attracts millions of vacationers who are headed to the Gulf of Mexico, which means many residents work in jobs that support tourism. But Foley also understands the importance of a diverse economy. To that end, it’s developing a 300 acre Class “A” Business Park to attract industry, and plans are in the works to build a 100,000-square-foot sports facility to expand the city’s recreation business. With exciting projects like these increasing the number of jobs in the area, it’s no wonder Foley’s population doubled over the last decade. And, despite the influx of residents, the average commute is a mere 18.7 minutes.
#7 – Opelika
Opelika balances quality of life amenities such as culture and recreation with a business environment that’s gaining momentum. These are a few reasons why earlier this year, “Forbes” named Opelika as America’s seventh best small city for jobs. A $300 million dollar expansion of a local manufacturing plant and the development of the Northeast Opelika Industrial Park, might bring additional jobs to Opelika, and that could further reduce the city’s average commute time of 18.8 minutes.
#8 – Mountain Brook
Thanks to factors like low crime, quality schools, and affordability, “Business Insider” ranked Mountain Brook as the fourth best suburb in America. Another bonus of living in the eighth best commuter city in Alabama is that Wi-Fi is free throughout the community. Many telecommuters may take advantage of this great perk of living in Mountain Brook, which makes sense, as the telecommuter rate here 40 percent higher than the average city on our list. Having such a large population working from home helps cut down on traffic, which allows 2 out of 5 residents to get to work in less than 15 minutes.
#9 – Troy
If you’re looking to start a business, or grow your current one, Troy may be the place to do so. Both established and up-and-coming businesses can utilize the Center for International Business and Economic Development, which offers customized trainings and helps enhance Troy’s economic growth. We applaud Troy for the work they’re doing to improve their community. We also want to note that Troy has one of the highest rates of workers who carpool on our list. This is great, as it helps cut down on traffic and keeps commute times to a minimum.
#10 – Florence
Florence is situated in northwestern Alabama and bounded by the Tennessee River. As many residents opt to stay in Florence for work, commuters get to the office six minutes faster than most Americans. Many Florence locals find themselves working in a retail or manufacturing setting. Others are entrepreneurs who may enjoy the support of initiatives like the “One Stop Shop” program, which can help them start or expand their business.
#11 – Demopolis
Demopolis puts an emphasis on education, as evidenced by the local high school being named a “National Blue Ribbon School” in 2008, a distinction only 56 schools in the United States received that year. And education doesn’t stop after high school graduation. Approximately 75 percent of Marengo County residents say they’re willing to train for a better job. Whether one of these jobs is at one of the large corporations in the area, like Georgia-Pacific Paper or Tombigbee Healthcare Authority, or at a local startup, 3 out of 5 of those who call Demopolis home commute for less than 15 minutes.
#12 – Tuscaloosa
Based on the fact that this is the second most populated city on our list, we imagined the roads would be packed and commutes would be lengthy. But we were wrong. Nearly 90 percent of Tuscaloosa workers commute for 29 minutes or less. One reason workers enjoy a nominal commute is due to the variety of local employment opportunities offered right in the area, like at the University of Alabama, Mercedes-Benz, and DCH Regional Medical Center.
#13 – Eufaula
The lakeside city of Eufaula has enjoyed a steady population growth over the last decade. This is largely due to the increased number of jobs in light manufacturing, healthcare, and tourism, plus new industries coming to town. Whether residents work for an established company in Eufaula, like Hyundai Motor Manufacturing, or for a new business, locals spend 23 percent less time commuting than most American workers.
#14 – Dothan
Dothan is using a pioneering program named CJET Academy to help residents train for local jobs. The eight week academy is free, and teaches skills related to the aircraft maintenance, repair, and overhaul industry. Graduates of the academy are guaranteed a job with Commercial Jet, a Dothan-based company. Programs like this help residents stay local for work, which goes a long way toward cutting down on their commute and keeping it to an average of 19.7 minutes.
#15 – Albertville
Albertville has three industrial parks that provide a range of jobs, from blue-collar to professional. Plus, Albertville it’s within driving distance of six institutes of higher education and it’s home to Alabama Aviation College, if you’re looking for work in the education field. No matter where an Albertville builds their career, there’s a 50 percent chance they’ll commute for less than 15 minutes. The city’s enviable commute could be the result of its high rate of carpooling, which helps keep traffic congestion at bay.
#16 – Gulf Shores
Tourism accounts for 62 percent of Gulf Shores’ annual revenue, and visitors are headed to the community in record breaking numbers. To ensure the community remains a positive place for business and a desirable tourist destination for decades to come, the city created Small Town, Big Beach Vision 2025 for Sustainability. This comprehensive growth plan includes the development of bike and pedestrian-friendly corridors, which could further reduce Gulf Shores’ already enviable commute of 19.8 minutes, as people start biking or walking to work instead of driving.
#17 – Jackson
Jackson uses a powerful interactive mapping program to give business leaders critical insights into the area, like its transportation system and demographics. Using this map is one way Jacksonville recruits new companies to the area, and could be why it’s considered the regional hub for business and industry. New businesses bring more job opportunities, which keep locals working close to home. In fact, more than 60 percent of Jackson workers get to the job in less than 15 minutes.
#18 – Selma
Of all the cities on our list, Selma has one of the highest percentages of residents who either carpool or use mass transit. And if they aren’t doing either of these things, residents can take advantage of the Riverfront Walking and Bicycle Trail and walk or bicycle to work instead of drive. Fewer cars on the road could be why the average commute in Selma is less than 20 minutes.
#19 – Muscle Shoals
Muscle Shoals is committed to building small businesses that create local jobs. One way it does so is through the Shoals Entrepreneurial Center, which works with startup and developing companies to help them be successful. We were impressed that the Center’s businesses have a 90 percent success rate. Whether you want to launch your own company or work for someone else, there’s a 1 in 2 chance it will take you less than 15 minutes to get to the office.
#20 – Enterprise
Niche.com recognized Enterprise for being one of the best towns in Alabama to raise a family, and “Southern Business and Development” magazine honored Enterprise for its high-quality workforce. With these great accomplishments under its belt, we weren’t surprised to learn the population in Enterprise increased by almost 25 percent over the last decade. Many folks who move to Enterprise get a job at Fort Rucker, but the city is also a great place for entrepreneurs. In fact, Mayor Kenneth W. Boswell recently established Small Business Week in Enterprise. No matter what industry Enterprise residents work in, 4 out of 5 make it to the office in 29 minutes or less.
#21 – Alexander City
Exceptional medical facilities, 750 miles of stunning shoreline, and a state-of-the-art technology center are a few perks of living in Alexander City. A commute that’s 20 percent faster than the national average is another. Alexander City’s short commute may be due to the fact that 15 percent of its workers either carpool or use mass transit, and that keeps traffic congestion at a minimum.
#22 – Valley
Valley is an Alabama Community of Excellence (ACE), which means city leaders participated in a rigorous program that helped them plan for Valley’s commercial and economic development, among other things. Proactive thinking like this helps keep Valley attractive to employers, and that means locals have more opportunities to work in the area. Add in the fact that Valley has the second highest rate of carpoolers on our list, and it’s no wonder the city has one of the best commute times in the state.
#23 – Brewton
Safe neighborhoods, quality schools, and first-rate recreation facilities make Brewton a great place to raise a family. And thanks to organizations like the Brewton Economic Development Board and the Industrial Development Authority, this community is also an appealing place to work. These groups actively recruit a range of businesses to Brewton so locals don’t have to travel to enjoy diverse employment opportunities. As a result, the typical commute time in Brewton is five minutes faster than the national average.
#24 – Hamilton
There are a lot of perks to working and living in the historic city of Hamilton, especially if you’re a budding entrepreneur. That’s because Hamilton is one of the few cities in Alabama that offers an incentives package specifically designed for retail development. Working parents will appreciate that Hamilton boasts an excellent school system, low crime rate, and gorgeous parks, on top of short commute times. With all Hamilton has going for it, it’s easy to see why the town motto is “small town living at its best.”
#25 – Huntsville
The average commute time in Huntsville is five minutes faster than the national average; that’s particularly impressive considering it’s the second most populated city in the state. When Huntsville locals get to work, many find themselves employed in the technology, space, or defense industries, at places like NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center or Cummings Research Park. Job opportunities like these are one reason Huntsville is consistently recognized as a premier location to live and work.
25 Worst Commuter Cities in Alabama
Residents of these 25 Alabama cities spend about 28 minutes driving to work. This is about 10 minutes longer than workers who live in the state’s best commuter cities, but it’s just three minutes longer than the national average. About 1 of every 5 workers in the cities listed below spend less than 15 minutes getting to the office, so we understand what makes living in any of these 25 cities appealing.
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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 Alabama 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 firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions about this report.