Traveling from place to place takes a lot of our time – just under 80 minutes per person per day, according to recent figures.  But who gets a worse deal?  Is it city dwellers, who fight through downtown gridlock and congested city streets, or waste time waiting for the bus or train to finally arrive?  Or suburbanites, who benefit from freer flowing traffic, but who may have to drive for miles and miles to get to work, schools, and stores?

As it turns out, it doesn’t particularly matter.  According to data from the 2001 National Household Transportation Survey, no matter where you live – city center, inner ring suburb, or urban fringe – you spend about the same amount of time getting from place to place. Just take a look:

So does location matter at all?  In fact, yes.  Total time spent traveling doesn’t vary much with the density of your neighborhood, but time spent in cars, trucks, and SUVs decreases as density increases.  People living in the densest neighborhoods spend roughly a third less time driving than people living in low density neighborhoods spend (43 minutes vs. 63 minutes per day).  That means they can use those extra 20 travel minutes a day doing something else.

Imagine how much reading you could get done on the bus, streetcar, or commuter train.  The average reader could enjoy an extra 1736 novels a year.

If you are able to work on public transit, say by reading documents or using a lap-top, you could reduce the amount of time you spend in the office.  Some people also use commute time to nap or just decompress from the work day.

Multi-tasking can involve exercise too.  In Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, only around 55% of people get the CDC recommended amount of 30 minutes of moderate activity 5 times a week or 20 minutes of vigorous activity 3 days a week.  If you live in a neighborhood where you can walk to work or bike to the grocery store, you can get your exercise while running errands.

What could you do with all that extra time?