Number cruncher Nathan Yau of the site Flowing Data — you may remember him from past posts calculating numbers of bars and grocery stores, or figuring out the most efficient beer-tasting road trips or, more depressingly, how people are likely to die — is back with a map of when people across the U.S. commute to work.
Yau used data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey to effectively determine when at least the morning rush hour is in every county in America.
(The map is focused on when people say they leave their homes to drive to work, not when they say they leave work to drive home — although some second- and third-shift folks are clearly making that commute in the afternoons.)
As you can see, there are places in the country where most commuters pile onto the road around the same times. Nearly all workers included in the study drive to work between 7-8 a.m. in a handful of counties in Wyoming, North Dakota and South Dakota, among other places.
“In more heavily populated areas, like southern California, commuters are more spread out, with some leaving closer to 6 a.m.to beat traffic. … LaGrange county in Indiana, which has a large Amish population, has a lot of early risers, with many leaving for work between midnight and 4:59 a.m. And the Aleutians East Borough in Alaska, which is mostly a commercial fishing area, has a lot of people leaving for work in the late afternoon and early evening.”
So what about Maine?
According to Yau’s map, Maine commuters are actually pretty dispersed. Sure, more workers are hitting the road between 7-8 a.m. than any other time frame, but it’s still only between 10 percent and 20 percent of the commuters in most Maine counties, with the other 80 percent or 90 percent scattered around the rest of the day.
So if you want to know when to leave home in order to avoid traffic, this data’s not going to help you. The good news is, this data does suggest that, at least generally, the traffic should be tolerable almost around the clock in this rural state.
But there are definitely pockets of time when driving is pretty congested in some places in Maine. Try driving through Bath when the first shift at Bath Iron Works gets out at 3:30 p.m., for instance. Or Route 1 through Wiscasset on a sunny summer afternoon. If you’re from Maine, you learn quickly which areas to avoid and when.