Stateline reports spike in “super commuters.” Finding underscores importance of transportation investment and affordable housing.

Stateline reports that most states are seeing a spike in “super commuters.” 

The number of commuters who travel 90 minutes or more to get to work increased sharply between 2010 and 2015, a shift that traffic experts, real estate analysts and others attribute to skyrocketing housing costs and a reluctance to move, born of memories of the 2008 financial crisis.

Our Opportunity Washington Scorecard shows Washington ranking No. 38 on our “Connect” transportation indicator. 

Washington: After accounting updated data for highway quality and commute times, our state maintains its ranks of 38th among all states, despite a slightly lower CONNECT score of 41. Washington’s statewide commute time inched up to 27.1 minutes. 

Commute times, of course, vary greatly within the state. Drivers in the congested Puget Sound region experiencing longer travel times than their counterparts in less populated regions, so that statewide average of 27.1 minutes understates the experience of many metro commuters. 

In our updated foundation report, we note progress. 

The 16-year, $16 billion Connecting Washington investment plan represents the first new statewide investment in transportation in more than a decade. It includes $1.3 billion for preservation and maintenance, $8.8 billion for project construction, and $1 billion for the state’s multi-modal fund.

The investment matters because roadway congestion and inefficiency impose costs on households and make our state a less attractive place for people to live, work, and do business. The Connecting Washington investment will help to address targeted chokepoints, reform permitting to reduce project delays, undertake bridge and road repairs, and provide funding to local governments.

The Stateline report includes an observation specific to a familiar challenge here.

In tech job centers like Seattle and San Francisco, low-income workers are moving farther and farther away while high-income workers can still afford to live close to work, according to a 2015 Zillow study that looked at changes through 2014.

“While commute times for higher-income earners hasn’t changed much over the past 10 years, commutes are getting longer and longer for low-income workers,” said Lauren Braun, a Zillow spokeswoman.

Rapid job growth in metro Seattle has exacerbated the housing affordability challenge, as we’ve written. Expanding the supply of available housing will require a number of policy initiatives, most likely including addressing land use regulation. We discussed the issue here and here

The challenges of a hot economy are manageable. Passage of the transportation package and the fresh look policymakers are taking at expanding housing supply suggest the state and its most populous region recognize the importance of managing them.