Puerto Ricans have terrible commutes

Despite its laid-back, sun-soaked image, Puerto Rico is home to some of the worst commutes in the United States, new census data reveal (PDF).

Nearly 14% of Puerto Ricans spend at least two hours each weekday commuting to and from work. Only three states—New York, New Jersey, and Maryland— have higher portions of residents with commutes that long.

“Of course it’s getting worse,” said Evelyn Aimee de Jesus, an attorney from Caguas, Puerto Rico, whose drives to various courthouses around the island are often impeded by road construction. ”I wake up earlier to try to make it to court on time.” She said the concentration of available jobs near San Juan ends up clogging the main roads that lead to the capital.

Traffic is unbearable at rush hours” in and around San Juan, said Antonio Vargas, an actor and director who sometimes works in schools. He blames inefficient public transportation and planning, and Puerto Rico’s car culture. “People try to outdrive each other” on crowded streets.

Some other tidbits from the report:

  • The average American commute was 25.5 minutes long in 2011, a figure that has held steady over the past decade.
  • Some 600,000 Americans are classified as “extreme commuters,” who travel at least 90 minutes each way.
  • One fourth of people with longer commutes take public transportation to work, five times the level of all US workers.

Map of US commute times courtesy of WNYC.