The average resident of the San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward metro area spends 33.2 minutes commuting to work, longer than both the national average of 26.4 minutes and the statewide average of 28.9 minutes. San Francisco residents have the longest commute of any metro area in California.

Two of the main factors that determine commute time are the distance to be traveled and traffic congestion. In large, dense cities, commuters likely travel longer distances from home to work and do so at slower speeds.

In San Francisco, there are 58,805 people per square mile, a greater population density than the average across all U.S. metro areas of 6,088 Americans per square mile. The metro is comprised of 3,426 square miles of land and water, making it the 93rd largest U.S. metropolitan area by land mass.

Metropolitan areas often consist of a core principal city with strong economic and social ties to their surrounding regions. In the San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward metro, San Francisco is the principal city and economic hub for adjacent municipalities and townships. The more concentrated a metropolitan area population is within its principal city, the less time residents spend commuting to work. Nationwide, 38.3% of metro area residents live within their principal city, and the remaining 61.7% in surrounding communities. An estimated 47.6% of San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward residents live in San Francisco, a larger share than the national figure.

Denser cities often have comprehensive public transit systems that can connect residents to their jobs and in some cases shorten the commute to work. In San Francisco, 17.2% of residents commute via public transportation, a larger share than the national public transit ridership of 5.2%. On average, those who take public transit in San Francisco take 20 minutes longer getting to work than those who drive. Nationwide, taking public transit adds 25 minutes to the average commute.

One indication of a good transit system is an economically diverse ridership. If ridership in a metropolitan area is primarily just low-income residents, the system is less likely to operate smoothly or be maintained well. In San Francisco, the typical public transit commuter earns $55,710 a year, roughly 110% of the $50,762 median earnings of commuters who drive to work alone in the metro area. Nationwide, the median earnings for public transit commuters is 89% that of workers who commute in a car, truck, or van alone.

Rank Metro Area Commute Time
10 Vallejo-Fairfield, CA 30.9
9 Stockton-Lodi, CA 31.1
8 Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell, GA 31.3
7 Boston-Cambridge-Newton, MA-NH 31.4
6 Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, IL-IN-WI 31.8
5 Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA 31.9
4 San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA 33.2
3 Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV 34.4
2 New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA 36.3
1 East Stroudsburg, PA 39.6