With the population of Santa Rosa County gradually increasing, the number of commuters also rises, which brings with it certain issues.
The number of commuters, average commuting time and average commuting distance has grown in recent years. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, the average commuter travels approximately 15 miles one way.
In 2016, 68 percent of commuters in the United States reported a one-way commute of 15 miles or less, 22 percent traveled between 16 and 30 miles and 11 percent traveled more than 30 miles. The average time it takes to get to work in Florida is 24.8 minutes; the national average is 26 minutes, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics.
In Florida, there were 8,353,263 workers in 2013; 79.6 percent drove alone, 9.4 percent carpooled, 2.5 percent used public transportation, 1.5 percent walked, 2.2 percent used other means (taxi, motorcycle, bike) and 5.1 percent worked from home.
In the U.S., Maryland and New York have the longest commute, while North Dakota and South Dakota have the lowest. The percentage of those who bike or walk to work — called “active commuters” — has drastically decreased since 1990. Alabama and Mississippi have the lowest rate of active commuters, and Washington, D.C. and Alaska have the highest.
In addition to psychological stress, commuting can affect overall health, according to the American Journal of Preventative Medicine. Longer commutes are associated with less physical activity, lower cardio respiratory fitness, higher rates of obesity and elevated blood pressure.
Automobile commutes are associated with higher levels of stress than active commutes, according to BioMed Central Public Health. Although biking to work can be associated with risks such as traffic accidents and inhaled pollutants, a 2010 study found that the exercise benefits of biking versus driving outweigh these risks.
The number of people who carpool has decreased since 1990, from 13.4 percent to 9.4 percent. Almost 600,000 full-time workers are “mega-commuters” who travel at least 90 minutes and at least 50 miles one way to work.
In 2013, almost 24 percent of workers worked outside their county of residence, up from 18 percent commuting across county lines in 1980; and nearly 4 percent worked outside their state of residence, up from 3 percent commuting across state lines in 1980, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Many Santa Rosa County residents reap the effects of long commutes to work each day.
“I commute approximately 15 miles from Berryhill [Road] in Milton to just into Pensacola off Nine Mile,” Cynthia Staudt Licharowicz said. “I hate driving the interstate so I go down Highway 90 which isn't a bad drive, but there are some seriously bad drivers in Santa Rosa County… It makes the commute very difficult.”
Sarah Ward said, “[I commute] 20 miles one way from Gulf Breeze to Milton. The toll is the only part of my drive I dislike; $7.50 a day adds up quick. It's a 30-minute drive so it gives me some me time.”
Deanna Mosier of Milton said she commutes to downtown Pensacola each day, which is 32 miles one way and takes 40 minutes. She doesn't mind the drive, she said, because she listens to audio books.