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Published: Thursday, 2/26/2004

Got traffic complaints? Toledo s not so bad


Toledo shares a distinction with few other cities of its size: You can get to work in less than 20 minutes. The average commute time is 18.1 minutes, to be exact, according to data from the 2002 American Community Survey released yesterday by the U.S. Census Bureau.

“The folks at the City of Toledo and [the Ohio Department of Transportation] should be proud of this number,” said James Gee, general manager of the Toledo Area Regional Transit Authority. “It shows that we have a good road infrastructure for our constituents.”

The survey is sent annually to a random sampling of more than 740,000 households nationwide. In addition to questions about commuting times, it asks about household income, education levels, and housing values.

The commuting data comes from places with populations of 250,000 or more. This year the American Community Survey will be sent to randomly selected people in every county in the nation.

The 2002 survey measured 69 cities with populations of 250,000 or more. Of those, only five cities had quicker commuting times than Toledo. By comparison, Columbus, ranked No. 60, had an average commute of 20 minutes; Cincinnati was No. 56, with an average 20.6-minute commute; Cleveland was No. 31, with an average 23.5-minute commute, and Detroit was No. 22, with an average 24.8-minute commute.

New York City workers had the longest commute - an average of 38.4 minutes - followed by Chicagoans, with a 32.7-minute commute. Wichita, Kan., workers had the shortest commute: 16.5 minutes.

Measuring states as a whole, Ohio was ranked No. 31 in average commute time at 22 minutes. Michigan was No. 28, at 22.4 minutes.

Commuting time is “an important quality-of-life issue,” said Steve Herwat, executive director of the Toledo-Lucas County Plan Commissions. Short commuting time can be used to promote economic development, he said. And businesses won t have their vehicles tied up in congested traffic.

But the data may prove to be a curse, he said. “It might promote more urban sprawl because you can live farther from the city center or your place of employment and not be subjected to the burdens of commuting that other areas have,” Mr. Herwat said.

In 2010 the annual survey is to replace the long form of the decennial census, said Shelly Lowe, a census bureau spokesman.

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