Rockland & Westchester commutes of an hour or more outpace state rate

Traffic on Interstate 287 in White Plains. (Nov. Traffic on Interstate 287 in White Plains. (Nov. 21, 2012) Photo Credit: Elizabeth Daza

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Eighteen percent of Rockland and Westchester counties' half-million commuters spend an hour or more getting to work every day, more than the statewide rate for New York, which is the highest in the nation, Census Bureau figures show.

Some 71,000 of the two counties' 550,000 commuters say they travel 60-89 minutes per day and an additional 27,000 qualify as "mega-commuters," with travel times of 90 minutes or more, the figures show.

Commuters like Chris Broberg don't seem to mind the long commute. For the past 12 years, Broberg has commuted to Manhattan for his job as a pastry chef at The Four Seasons from Golden's Bridge on the northern edge of Westchester County.

Broberg caught the 8:28 a.m. train into Grand Central Terminal on Tuesday. Nearly 12 hours later, he was waiting for a ride home from the Golden's Bridge station.

Broberg moved from Brooklyn 12 years ago and added 30 minutes to his daily commute, but he said it was worth it.

"There are a lot of benefits to living up this way, so I don't mind," said Broberg, 50. "You can put a boat out on the lake or go apple picking with the kids."

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He spends the time on the Metro-North train reading a book. The numbers indicate that even in the suburbs closer to New York City, getting to work each day is a tough daily slog.

In Westchester County, some 57,000 people -- the biggest cropping of commuters by time of commute -- say it takes them 60-89 minutes to get to work. In Rockland County, 14,000 commuters have a similar travel time.

The vast majority -- 288,000 people in Westchester and 81,000 in Rockland -- commute to jobs in their home county. Some 83,000 Westchester County residents and 15,000 from Rockland commute into Manhattan every day.

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The results were culled from the U.S. Census Bureau's annual American Community Survey and cover the years from 2006 to 2010.

The counties' overall percentage is more than double the 8.1 percent of U.S. workers with commutes of an hour or more and nearly 2 percentage points higher than New York State's long commute rate, which at 16.2 percent is the highest in the nation.

LONGER COMMUTES, BETTER PAY

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The numbers show that commuters are traveling farther and farther to get to better-paying jobs in New York City. The Hudson Valley counties of Dutchess and Orange each ranked in the top 10 "mega-commutes" in the nation, the figures indicate.

Dutchess earned an eighth-place spot, with a mean travel time of 116 minutes. Orange ranked fifth with a mean travel time of 110 minutes. Some 5,500 Dutchess County residents commute to New York City every day, and roughly 11,000 leave from Orange.

Transportation advocates say the numbers indicate a need for more affordable housing in suburbs close to the city, near bus and rail lines.

"People are driving further and further for cheaper real estate," said Veronica Vanterpool, the executive director of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign.

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Census Bureau statistician Brian McKenzie said most commuters with long or "mega-commutes" are taking the train.

"The average travel time for workers who commute by public transportation is higher than that of workers who use other modes," said McKenzie, who authored the bureau's report. "For some workers using transit is a necessity, but others simply choose a longer travel time over sitting in traffic."

Nationally, 586,505 full-time workers -- or one out of every 122 full-time workers -- commute 90 minutes or more. They were more likely to be male and married with a spouse who does not work. And they typically left for work before 6 a.m.

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