The 40 Best and Worst Commuter Cities in California
The typical California worker spends more than 54 minutes commuting each workday. Over the course of a week, that adds up to nearly five hours and the average Golden State worker devotes the equivalent of almost one day to commuting each month.
Of course, many Californians endure much longer commutes than the state average, but an impressive number enjoy much shorter commutes. We discovered several of California’s coastal cities, as well as cities located in Northern California, boasted much shorter commute times than the average California community.
In addition to increasing stress levels and affecting overall health, many people don’t realize the time it takes to get to work also impacts your insurance premiums. For all the benefits a short commute offers, we want to recognize the California cities that offer residents the shortest commutes.
To determine which cities made our 40 Best Commuter Cities in California list, Obrella examined traffic data from the most recent survey released by the U.S. Census Bureau and identified California cities with a population of more than 10,000 residents at the time of the 2013 Census Survey.
How Commute Length Affects Auto Insurance Premiums
Typically, the farther you commute, the longer you’re on the road, and that increases your risk of being involved in an accident. Greater risk means you’ll pay a higher auto insurance premium. Just the opposite is true for those with shorter daily commutes. Workers that spend less time in their vehicle may pay less for car insurance. When you shop for car insurance in California, insurance companies may ask how far you travel to get to work so that they can gauge the risks you face on the road.
If your commute is increased by a change in job or as a result of moving to a new city, your insurance premium could go up by as much as $10 a month. It’s a good idea to contact your California car insurance company to understand how your premium may be affected by a longer commute.
How Commute Length Affects Quality of Life
Your budget isn’t the only thing that could take a hit if you spend a lot of time behind the wheel. Your quality of life can be affected by a lengthy commute as well.
- A study conducted in Sweden reveals that a marriage is 40 percent more likely to end in divorce when one partner endures a daily commute longer than 45 minutes.
- Political Scientist Robert Putnam declared that workers who commute longer have less “social connections.” Specifically, Putnam found that every 10 minutes an individual spends commuting reduces their “social connections” by 10 percent.
- People with longer commutes are more likely to feel tired, experience greater worry, and less enjoyment.
- Every minute of a commute is associated with a reduction in time spent resting, exercising, and preparing meals, according to research from Thomas James Christian of Brown University.
- Workers who spend 90 minutes or more making their daily commute are at a higher risk for chronic back or neck problems.
- Researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles and California State University, Long Beach discovered that no other factor had a stronger correlation with obesity than the number of miles driven every day.
From saving money to taking care of your health, now is the time to think about the amount of time you spend getting to the office and consider ways to reduce the journey. Start by taking a look at these 40 cities in California where residents enjoy a commute that’s much shorter than the state and national average.
The 40 Best Commuter Cities in California
#1 – Susanville
In the northeastern corner of The Golden State, you’ll discover the rural yet vibrant community of Susanville. Surrounded by Mother Nature’s beauty, we weren’t surprised to discover OutdoorLife.com recognized Susanville as one of “America’s Top 200 Towns.”
It’s a two hour drive to Redding, the closest large city, so most people who live in Susanville also work there. Home to the California Correctional Center, 27 percent of Susanville’s working males are employed in law enforcement.
Make Susanville your home and there’s a 90 percent chance you’ll enjoy a commute of 29 minutes or less. In fact, the average worker spends a mere 15 minutes behind the wheel before they get to work.
Congratulations Susanville for earning the top spot on our 40 Best Commuter Cities in California list.
#2 – Ridgecrest
Large enough to offer all the amenities you need yet small enough that you know your neighbor by name, Ridgecrest is a commuter friendly community of approximately 25,000 residents.
Ridgecrest is situated in Indian Wells Valley and sounded by four mountain ranges, so commuting to another city for work is a challenge. However, Ridgecrest’s isolated location is one reason why the China Lake Naval Air Weapons Station was established there in 1943. Today, approximately 4,000 people work at the Air Station. Ridgecrest is the second best city for commuters in California, with an average commute time of 16 minutes. Plus, nearly 90 percent of workers commute 29 minutes or less.
#3 – Eureka
Famous for offering drivers amazing ocean views, Highway 101 passes through the northern California community of Eureka. In addition to stunning vistas, Highway 101 also helps commuters get to and from work with ease. Nearly 9 out of 10 Eureka workers commute for less than 29 minutes. Residents who want to forgo the hassles of driving can use the Eureka Transit Service, a route bus system that serves Eureka and its surrounding communities.
Situated on Arcata Bay and a short drive from the Pacific Ocean, this small coastal community is a tourism gem. As a result, many people who call Eureka home work in the accommodations and food services sector. Healthcare and construction are other strong Eureka industries.
Beautiful and welcoming, Eureka offers residents the chance to spend less of their day at the wheel, and more of their day taking in refreshing salt air.
#4 – San Luis Obispo
Offering nearly ideal weather, lush vineyards, abundant recreation and eclectic restaurants, it’s no wonder tourists flock to the cozy community of San Luis Obispo. San Luis Obispo is also the place roughly 45,000 residents call home sweet home.
As the average commute time is a sensible 16 minutes, and less than three percent of residents commute 60 minutes or more, we weren’t surprised to learn that San Luis Obispo was named the happiest city in America by researcher and author Dan Buettner. Less time on the road and more time spent with friends and family may be one reason why this stunning city was honored by USA Today and Rand McNally as one of the country’s friendliest communities. Highway 101 dissects San Luis Obispo and the city offers an impressive transit system, so travelling to another city for work isn’t difficult; but who would want to?
#5 – Isla Vista
The oceanfront community of Isla Vista deserves a shout out for taking advantage of mass transportation. Of the 40 best commuter cities on our list, Isla Vista had the highest percentage of workers using mass transportation to get to work. It also had the second smallest percentage of workers commuting solo on our list, with only 50 percent of people traveling to work alone.
The University of California at Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara City College and Venture College are within commuting distance, so it makes sense that more than one third of Isla Vista’s employed citizens work in the field of education.
If you crave a coastal lifestyle want to say so-long to road rage, Isla Vista might be right for you.
#6 – Ukiah
Located in the Ukiah Valley, Ukiah’s rich soil and 300 days of annual sunshine create ideal conditions for growing a variety of fruit, especially grapes. Wineries abound in Ukiah and breweries are well loved.
Ukiah’s Walk and Bike Mendocino organization earns a high-five for its efforts to help citizens leave their car at home and walk or bike to work or school. Their initiatives could be paying off, as the average commute time in Ukiah is an enviable 17 minutes. Best yet, Ukiah residents can brag that 67 percent of their friends and neighbors commute for less than 15 minutes. That’s the highest percentage on our best commuter city list.
Short commutes mean Ukiah residents have more time to enjoy the fabulous town they call home, whether strolling the restored historic downtown, taking in one of Ukiah’s many festivals or exploring the great outdoors.
#7 – Arcata
Home to Humboldt State University, Arcata is a progressive college town adjacent to Arcata Bay. It’s also the location of a field office for the Federal Bureau of Land Management. As you might expect, many jobs in Arcata are related to education and government.
The fact that Highway 101 runs north and south through Arcata and the Redwood Transit System provides public bus transportation may be why only 1.98 percent of workers commute longer than 60 minutes.
Dotted with lovely historic buildings and restored Victorian houses, yet offering every modern convenience, Arcata is a fabulous place to settle if you want to avoid a long commute.
#8 – Monterey
Monterey is known for its rugged coastline, rich history and flourishing art community, but it’s also one of the state’s best cities to live in if you don’t want to waste time getting to work. On average, Monterey workers spend 17 minutes getting to the office and 86 percent of the workforce is on the road 29 minutes or less. Route One and the Monterey-Salinas Transit (MST) help locals reach jobs in the surrounding cities of Salinas, Carmel and San Jose.
Thanks to the presence of the Presidio of Monterey, over 13 percent of Monterey’s workforce is employed in the armed forces. Jobs in accommodations and education are equally abundant. The city of roughly 30,000 is well educated, with almost half of Monterey’s adult population having earned a bachelors, masters or doctorate degree.
#9 – Blythe
Situated just 272 feet above sea-level, in the Palo Verde Valley you’ll discover the commuter friendly community of Blythe. The welcoming community is positioned roughly half way between Los Angeles and Phoenix and just off Interstate 10, which makes it a popular rest stop for travelers.
Palm Desert is the closest large city, but it’s nearly a two hour drive west, so many Blythe residents stick close to home for employment. As a result, only 1.99 percent of Blythe workers commute for more than 60 minutes, which is the second lowest percentage of all the cities on our list. Blythe residents deserve recognition for their carpooling efforts; over 21 percent of the workforce carpools.
#10 – South Lake Tahoe
With a low population density, a reasonable cost of living and a crime rate that’s half the national average, South Lake Tahoe has plenty to offer. Toss in plentiful recreation and a typical commute time of less than 18 minutes and you’ve created a nearly ideal place to put down roots.
As if you need more reasons to rave about South Lake Tahoe, it also offers a first-class mass transit system that five percent of South Lake Tahoe workers take advantage of; that’s the third highest percentage on our 40 Best Commuter Cities in California list.
Thanks to all of the opportunities this year-round playground offers, many people who visit South Lake Tahoe never leave.
#11 – Red Bluff
Perched along the Sacramento River and dissected by Interstate Five you’ll find Red Bluff, the county seat of Tehama County.
Red Bluff’s closest large city is Redding, which is 30 miles north via Interstate Five. Chico is 45 minutes south on Highway 99. Due to its somewhat isolated location, more than half of Red Bluff residents work locally. As a result, the average time it takes to get to work in Red Bluff is 18 minutes and 16 percent of workers carpool. Nearly six percent of workers don’t even get behind the wheel, they telecommute. A significant number of Red Bluff residents are employed in administrative, healthcare and retail jobs.
#12 – Goleta
First-class parks, lovely beaches and a well respected education system are just a few reasons why those who settle in Goleta are happy with their decision. The fact that the average commute is only 18 minutes doesn’t hurt. Plus, getting to nearby Santa Barbara is a breeze thanks to the Pacific Surfliner which can get workers downtown in less than 15 minutes.
Goleta is only moments from University of California at Santa Barbara. As a result, 1 out of 10 residents are employed in education. University of California at Santa Barbara has been showered with kudos for its superior startup education and the Goleta Entrepreneurial Magnet serves as an outstanding resource for residents who want to launch a business. Plus, it offers a state of the art co-working space.
Goleta is an excellent place to put down roots, especially if you’re an entrepreneur who wants to invest time in your business, not in your commute.
#13 – Chico
Situated near one of America’s richest agricultural regions, the Sacramento Valley, Chico is Butte County’s most populated city. In addition to a lush landscape and impressive historical buildings, Chico residents no doubt enjoy their short commute to work. It takes the typical Chico resident 18 minutes to travel from home to the office and nearly 61 percent make the trip in less than 15 minutes.
If you’re looking for a city that blends historic charm with modern convenience, you’ve found it. Chico is known for its unique neighborhoods, vibrant downtown and the fact that it’s home to Chico State, the second-oldest campus of the California State University system.
Chico is also a community that puts the environment at the top of its priority list. It has been recognized as a Tree City USA for more than three decades, offers an impressive number of parks and greenways, and its bike paths encourage commuters to leave their car at home. Plus, Chico recently launched a new sustainability website that’s dedicated to environmental concerns and offers links to the city’s Climate Action Plan and its yearly Sustainability Indicators Report.
#14 – Santa Barbara
Thanks to its inviting climate and perfect position along the Pacific Ocean, Santa Barbara is a desirable tourist destination. But it’s also home to some 90,000 people, and it’s easy to understand why.
Although it’s a relatively large city, getting around in Santa Barbara is remarkably stress-free. Santa Barbara has its own airport and Amtrak station, and Highway 101 connects the coastal gem to Los Angeles to the south and San Francisco to the north. Nearly five percent of those who call Santa Barbara home use public transportation to get to their workplace, which not only helps the environment but also reduces traffic congestion. That could be one reason why the time it takes for the average Santa Barbara citizen to get to the office is just 18 minutes. That’s remarkably faster than the state average of 27 minutes.
Home to five institutes of higher learning, it’s understandable that a number of residents work in the education field. It’s also fitting that percent of adults in Santa Barbara who have earned their bachelor’s degree or other advanced degree is almost twice the national average.
#15 – Redding
The City of Redding is located along Interstate Five in northern California. Settle in this friendly commuter city and there’s a good chance you’ll spend less than 19 minutes behind the wheel before you get to work.
The fact that the City of Redding’s residents spend a nominal amount of time on the road may help contribute to its good air quality. According to the EPA, the city’s pollution index is less than three quarters of California cities.
Redding residents already enjoy a short drive to and from work, and the city’s Downtown Redding Transportation Plan hopes to make the city even more walkable and bikeable. It also hopes to improve mass transit options into downtown Redding and expand trails into the city’s hub.
#16 – Coalinga
With the motto “The Sunny Side of the Valley” you can expect a lot from the small city of Coalinga and not be disappointed. Low crime rates, diverse housing options and short commutes help contribute to a high quality of life for Coalinga’s residents.
The closest large city to Coalinga is Fresno, which is located roughly 60 miles northeast. Although the Coalinga Transit System offers service to Fresno, most workers stick close to home for employment. The Pleasant Valley State Prison, Coalinga State Hospital and West Hills College are a few of the city’s largest employers.
Attractive parks, trails, green belts, and scenic vistas round out the reasons why Coalinga is a wonderful place to call home.
#17 – El Centro
Noted as the largest city in the U.S. to lie entirely below sea level, El Centro is also the largest city in Imperial County. El Centro is less than 20 minutes from international industrial sites in Mexicali, Baja California and close to Interstate Eight, State Highway 111 and State Highway 86.
If you’re looking to get away from it all, but don’t want to give up the conveniences of the 21st century, El Centro could be your new home. The city of approximately 42,000 residents is 117 miles east of San Diego and 245 miles west of Phoenix, Arizona. Its isolated location means most residents work in town or drive to nearby Brawley, which is just 20 minutes north.
If you settle in El Centro there’s a good chance you won’t waste time fighting traffic. In fact, 5 out of 10 El Centro residents commute for less than 15 minutes, and 8 out of 10 commute for less than 30 minutes. Some of the city’s major employers include the El Centro Naval Air Facility, El Centro Regional Medical Center and Imperial County Behavioral Health.
#18 – Grass Valley
Situated in the western foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, you’ll discover the quaint community of Grass Valley. Easy access to State Highways 20 and 49 make getting to and from larger cities easy. Sacramento, the state capitol, is about 70 miles south of Grass Valley. Two airports, the Sacramento International Airport and the Nevada County Airport, are both close by.
In addition to a strategic location, Grass Valley residents also enjoy short commutes. It takes the average resident in Grass Valley just 19 minutes to get to their place of employment, and nearly four percent are lucky enough to work right from home.
#19 – Coronado
Directly west of sunny San Diego you’ll discover Coronado, one of California’s most treasured oceanside gems. People from all over the world flock to Coronado for rest and relaxation, but the community also enjoys a steady year-round population. Naval Base Coronado consists of a group of eight Navy installations including Naval Air Station North Island, Coronado and Naval Amphibious Base, Coronado, so, as you might expect, government related jobs are common.
If you would rather walk the beach than waste your day driving to and from work, Coronado is a marvelous place to live. In fact, 8 out of 10 residents commute for less than 30 minutes, and almost eight percent work from home, which is the second highest percentage on our 40 Best Commuter Cities in California list.
#20 – Corcoran
Perfectly positioned in the heart of the fertile San Joaquin Valley and near the rich Tulare Lake Basin, Corcoran has a strong history of agriculture.
A petit town of just six square miles, it doesn’t take residents long to get to work. In fact, 7 out of 10 workers can make the trip in less than 30 minutes and only four percent endure a commute longer than 60 minutes. Visalia and Fresno are Corcoran’s closest large cities, and Hanford and Tulare are less than a 30 minute drive. Agriculture, health care and public administration are some of the most common jobs in Corcoran.
In addition to easy commutes, Corcoran residents also enjoy a wonderfully diverse and safe community that offers a lower cost of living than the national average.
#21 – Fortuna
Dubbed “The Friendly City,” Fortuna is situated in northern California’s Humboldt County. Small, historic and stunning, those who visit Fortuna return often.
Fortuna is a convenient place to rest and revive while visiting the magnificent California Redwoods or nearby beaches, but it’s also an ideal place to put down roots. Highway 101 runs through Fortuna, so whether you work in town or in a nearby community like Eureka or Arcata, you won’t be on the road long. The average Fortuna worker is behind the wheel for 20 minutes getting to and from their place of employment. If you’d prefer to leave your car parked at home and enjoy a stress-free commute, Fortuna’s public transportation has you covered.
#22 – Oroville
You know what they say about location, and Oroville has got it. Close to Mother Nature’s bounty yet convenient to a number of small and large cities, Oroville is a wonderful place to live, work and play.
Two national forests and a handful of recreational and wildlife areas are an easy drive from Oroville, and Sacramento is only about an hour south. You can make the drive yourself, or use the Amtrak Thruway Connecting Service, which will get you there in about an hour and 30 minutes. We were impressed to discover that more than 16 percent of Oroville residents carpool to the office, which not only helps minimize pollution but also helps keep traffic congestion at bay.
If you want to be surrounded by natural beauty and boundless recreation, but don’t want a lengthy commute, Oroville is worth exploring.
#23 – Grover Beach
Flanked by the Pacific Ocean on the west and Highway 101 on the east, Grover Beach offers beauty and convenience.
The Grover Beach Train Station is situated a short walk from local shops, eateries and the beach. It offers Amtrak rail and bus service from Grover Beach to a number of Southern California cities, and commuters enjoy free parking. The typical Grover Beach worker travels 20 minutes to get to his or her job, and only three percent of residents tolerate a commute of more than 60 minutes. An impressive 80 percent of those who call Grover Beach home get to work in less than 30 minutes.
This small, oceanfront community encourages citizen participation. In fact, an association of local governments is currently seeking public opinion on how to best develop transportation opportunities for vehicles, trains, bikes, and pedestrians.
#24 – Anderson
Those who make the northern California city of Anderson home enjoy a pristine environment and short commutes. Healthcare, retail and construction are a few of the most prevalent industries in Anderson.
Whether employed in town or in a nearby city like Cottonwood, Palo Cedro, Millville or Redding, the average Anderson worker commutes for 20 minutes. Public transportation provides service seven times per day to Redding, and service one time per day to Cottonwood. Both trips take about one hour.
#25 – Pacific Grove
Charming, scenic and coastal, you’ll have a hard time finding another Golden State city as ideal as Pacific Grove. Dubbed “The Most Romantic City in the U.S.” and “A Dreamy California Destination,” Pacific Grove is also a marvelous place to call home if you want to avoid the stress of a long commute.
Perched on the Monterey Peninsula, Pacific Grove residents travel an average of 20 minutes to and from work, and 6.5 percent don’t even need to leave home. In fact, Pacific Grove has one of the highest percentages of telecommuters of the cities that made our list.
Whether you settle in one of Pacific Grove’s famed grand Victorians or in a petit bungalow, this seaside sanctuary has a lot to offer.
#25 – McKinleyville
Located on a bluff overlooking the vast Pacific Ocean, you’ll discover the unique community of McKinleyville. Ancient redwood forest, welcoming neighbors and stunning coastline are a few things the seaside city is famous for. Those who settle here also know it’s a commuter friendly place to live.
The typical McKinleyville worker commutes for about 20 minutes each way, and 14 percent of commuters carpool. A full five percent of the community’s residents work from home. If you’re searching for a recreation paradise and a leisurely way of life, you owe it to yourself to learn more about McKinleyville.
#27 – Visalia
At the intersection of Highways 198 and 99 you’ll come across the sizable city of Visalia. Honored as the “Crown Jewel” of the San Joaquin Valley, it’s a top spot to live if you want to avoid a traffic jam.
With a commute time of 20 minutes on average, Visalia residents spend about 30 percent less time getting to work than the typical California resident. There is a vast assortment of employers in and around Visalia, offering both blue collar and white collar jobs. Some of the most prominent places of employment include College of the Sequoias, California Visalia Public Works Administration and Kaweah Delta Health Care District, a multi campus, 581-bed healthcare organization.
#28 – Imperial
Imperial is located just off of State Route 86, half way between two other commuter friendly cities, Brawley and El Centro. The majority of Imperial’s workforce is employed in white-collar jobs, such as office and administrative support and sales.
Imperial not only offers most commuters a short trip to work, it’s also decidedly safe. In fact, the chance of becoming a victim of a violent crime in Imperial is 1 in 2,312. To put that into perspective, the California average is 1 in 249.
#29 – Palm Desert
Palm Desert is the type of place people visit, and never leave. A city of roughly 50,000 it’s small enough to exude charm, but large enough to provide residents with every amenity they desire.
Situated in Southern California’s famous Coachella Valley, Palm Desert is also stunningly beautiful. And thanks to short commutes, residents get plenty of time to enjoy the scenery. The typical worker travels for approximately 21 minutes before they get to the office, and more than six percent enjoy the luxury of working from home.
College of the Desert and Desert Sands Unified School District are two of the more noteworthy employers in Palm Desert.
#30 – Oildale
Convenient to more than half a dozen communities, such as Greenacres, Mayfield, Rosedale, Shafter and Lamont, Oildale residents can work in town or choose to make a short commute to another city.
Oildale is also less than four miles north of downtown Bakersfield, one of California’s largest cities and one of its fastest growing. Oildale workers can make the short commute to Bakersfield by bus, but most (76 percent) prefer to drive their car, and almost 16 percent carpool.
Oildale is just six square miles, but don’t let its small size fool you; it’s a perfectly-located community for commuters.
#31 – Tulare
Located along Highway 99 in the Central San Joaquin Valley, Tulare enjoys a convenient mid-state location that benefits its economy. The much larger cities of Fresno and Bakersfield are about a 60 minute drive, giving businesses based in Tulare same-day access to some of state’s key markets. Tulare also boasts some of the most prolific farmland in the world, making agriculture a critical part of the community’s economy.
When it comes to clocking in, most Tulare workers stay close to home. Almost 80 percent of Tulare citizens commute for less than 30 minutes, with 21 minutes being the average time it takes a worker to get to their job.
Tulare citizens are hard workers, but they also know how to have fun. When it comes to adventure, they head east to the nearby Sierra Nevada Mountains or spend the weekend at a seaside destination like Monterey.
#32 – Brawley
A place to get away from the hustle and bustle, Brawley is a tightly knit community of people who value time with friends and family. Its rather isolated location means most people that live in Brawley also work there.
The community of roughly 25,000 is positioned just north of the boarder of Mexico and 15 miles north of El Centro. An impressive 19 percent of workers carpool and more than 78 percent of workers spend less than 30 minutes getting to or from work. Agriculture is an important component of the city’s economy and major employers include Clinicas de Salud del Pueblo, National Beef Packing Company, Walmart and Pioneers Memorial Hospital.
#33 – Kingsburg
One hour south of the geographic center of the state you’ll discover the small town of Kingsburg. Kingsburg is close to a variety of recreational opportunities, including the Sequoia National Forest, Kings Canyon National Park and the Sierra National Forrest, and it’s also perfectly positioned for commuters.
With easy access to State Route 99, Kingsburg’s residents can work locally or in one of the many nearby towns. Hanford and Visalia (two other commuter friendly cities) are both less than 25 minutes away. Those who choose to work in Fresno can hop in their car for a 20 minute drive, or take public transportation right into the city center. As if its perfect position wasn’t enough, Kingsburg is also a safe city, reporting roughly half the number of violent crimes the typical California city reports.
#34 – Morro Bay
Situated along scenic Highway 1, roughly halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles, Morro Bay is known for its sensational seafood, bountiful vineyards and alluring galleries and boutiques. If outdoor adventures and short commutes are what you crave, Morro Bay is a waterfront city you’ll fall in love with.
On top of the fact that Morro Bay is active and beautiful, it also boasts low unemployment, a highly educated citizenry and a crime rate that’s one third of the national average. Many Morro Bay residents find themselves working in health care and social assistance, educational services and accommodation and food services. The average commute time for a Morro Bay resident is 20 minutes, and at eight percent, the coastal community has a higher percentage of people who work from home than any other city on our 40 Best Commuter Cities in California list.
#35 – Seaside
Seaside is located just a few miles northeast of the magical city of Monterey, but it has a vibe all its own. From golf courses to conference facilities, new residential developments to commercial districts, Seaside is booming and that means locals have a good chance of working close to home. More than 80 percent of Seaside residents commute for less than 30 minutes, and nearly six percent use mass transportation to do so. That’s the second highest percentage of all the cities on our list.
California State University, Monterey Bay and the Monterey College of Law are both located in Seaside, on the former military base Fort Ord. The institutes of learning are two of the city’s larger employers. If you’re looking for a coastal community with a small town ambiance, and yearn for a short drive to work, Seaside is a fine place to settle in.
#36 – Livingston
Situated in Merced County, lovely Livingston is approximately 25 miles south of the much larger city of Modesto. Over the last several years, Livingston has gained a reputation as a booming commercial and industrial center but it’s also an incredibly rich agricultural area.
We give credit to Livingston residents for their carpooling efforts. Nearly one quarter of the community’s workers share a ride to work and that’s the second highest percentage on our list. Serving all of Merced County, Livingston’s “The Bus” operates on 20 fixed routes and transports approximately one million passengers annually.
An online public information page gives locals up to the moment arrival predictions for buses at their stop and an online survey asks residents to offer their thoughts about how the bus can serve the community better.
#37 – Paso Robles
Positioned in central California’s coastal mountain range, Paso Robles intertwines the values of yesteryear with the promise of a bright tomorrow. It’s also home to an amazing wine region, and convenient to deserts and beaches.
With all there is to do in and around Paso Robles, it’s a good thing residents don’t waste their time commuting. The typical worker who calls Paso Robles home sweet home commutes for just 22 minutes, and nearly 5 of every 10 residents drive for less than 15 minutes to get to their workplace.
#37 – Woodland
Located just 15 miles northwest of Sacramento you’ll find the commuter friendly city of Woodland. A few of Woodland’s significant employers include Woodland Healthcare, Target Distribution Center, Pacific Coast Producers and Woodland Community College.
Dotted with head-turning Victorian and craftsmen houses, Woodland also offers a quaint downtown and is enveloped by some of the most productive farmland in America. The average Woodland worker commutes for 22 minutes, and roughly half of Woodland citizens spend less than 30 minutes getting from home to the office.
#39 – Hanford
Located in the south central San Joaquin Valley, Hanford serves as the commercial and cultural hub of Kings County.
Walk the streets of Hanford and you’ll spot refurbished buildings and meet friendly folks. What you won’t experience is a traffic jam. One reason traffic doesn’t get backed up in Hanford is likely attributed to the fact that approximately 15 percent of Hanford workers carpool. Just three percent of workers commute for more than 60 minutes and 7 out of 10 Hanford workers drive for less than 30 minutes to get to the office. When they do, 12 percent find themselves in administrative support positions and about eight percent work in sales or law enforcement.
It’s only a 25 minute drive to Visalia, which is more than twice the population of Hanford. Those who choose to work there can make the short commute by car, or ride the Amtrak Thruway Motorcoach.
#40 – Santa Maria
Santa Maria is part of one of America’s largest wine-producing regions, referred to as “Santa Barbara Wine Country.” But ask any resident and they’ll tell you it’s also a hot spot for barbeque. If fact, Santa Maria’s delectable barbeque was featured in “Sunset Magazine” which named the community “The West’s Best BBQ Town.”
In addition to fabulous food and drink, Santa Maria is a great place to live if you don’t want to waste your day getting to and from work. Highway 101 runs through Santa Maria, giving resident easy access to points north and south along the coast. Public bus service offers commuters a break from getting behind the wheel and includes service to the nearby by city of Lompoc, which is home to Vandenberg Air Force Base, a major local employer. Those who choose to drive to Vandenberg Air Force Base can expect a commute of about 25 minutes.
Santa Maria deserves a shout-out for having the highest percentage of workers using mass transportation. More than 27 percent of workers do so; that’s almost twice as many as the average city on our list.
Which are the Worst Commuter Cities in California?
Some California residents are willing to give up a short commute and drive farther to get to work so they can save money on housing, enroll their kids in better schools, or escape from the hustle and bustle of city life. So while residents of the “worst” California commuter cities may spend up to twice as long on the road as the typical Californian commuter, it’s a tradeoff some are willing to make.
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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 California 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.