Feb 6, 2024 - News

Detroit's traffic advantage: Shorter downtown commutes

Change in average travel time by car, 2021 to 2023
Data: TomTom; Map: Axios Visuals

Our downtown traffic has remained among the country's lightest while other cities are dealing with more congestion in recent years.

Why it matters: Downtown car commutes have largely slowed across America since the mid-pandemic era, a likely reflection of increased traffic as more people head back to the office at least some of the time.

By the numbers: The average 6-mile trip in Detroit's city center took 8 minutes and 51 seconds last year — the exact same time it took in 2021, per new TomTom data.

  • Detroit's downtown drive time was the sixth-lowest among 80 cities analyzed and much shorter than the national average of nearly 12 minutes.
  • In Grand Rapids, downtown driving has improved by a half-minute since 2021, from 10 minutes and 28 seconds to a hair under 10 minutes last year.
Average travel time by car, 2023
Data: TomTom; Note: U.S. overall includes average of 80 cities; Chart: Axios Visuals

Zoom in: The average daily downtown workforce has trended upward in the last year, according to data from the Downtown Detroit Partnership.

  • Last November had an average of 30,697 daily workers, compared with 28,551 in 2022.

The big picture: While corporate leaders' efforts to get employees back at their desks full time have mostly fizzled, WFH rates are slowly slipping downward, with just a minority of workers able to enjoy total flexibility these days.

What they're saying: "People have now gotten into the habit of going back to the office again," Andy Marchant, TomTom's head of global product marketing, tells Axios.

  • "And I think what we've seen in the last year by looking at the stats, especially around congestion at rush hour, is that people have gone back to the office more regularly now."
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