Saturday, June 01, 2002

Commute to work getting longer

Kentuckians averaging 23.5 minutes

By Charles Wolfe
The Associated Press

        FRANKFORT, Ky. — Kentuckians are driving longer to get to work and using more vehicles in which to do it — about 229,000 more than a decade ago, according to new census figures.

        Carpooling declined, as did the number of people who used public transportation, bicycles or their own two feet to get to the job site.

        An average commute in Kentucky was 23.5 minutes, up from 20.7 minutes in 1990. The longest commutes generally were in eastern and northeastern counties with modest populations and comparatively few jobs.

        The numbers, based on workers 16 and older, came from long-form questionnaires the U.S. Census Bureau gave to about one household in six.

        Commuting time varied widely.

        In Paducah, Steve Doolittle spends 17 minutes driving from his house to his office in the McCracken County Courthouse. That puts him squarely in the local mainstream.

        Workers in McCracken County reported an average commute of 17.8 minutes, the shortest in the state at the county level. “I'm normal, I guess,” Mr. Doolittle, the county administrator, said Friday.

        The longest average commute was 48.7 minutes for workers living on the other side of the state, in Elliott County. Not surprising, some said, since Elliott County has traditionally been home for many construction workers.

        “It's not uncommon for our folks to drive to Pikeville and back every day on a pipe fitting job,” said Gene Binion, the longtime school superintendent.

        At the community level, an average commute was just 7.5 minutes in Pippa Passes, a town largely made up of Alice Lloyd College. But it was 72.2 minutes at California, a Campbell County town that is on the Ohio River and miles from a bridge.

        In McCracken County, two of the three largest employers — Western Baptist Hospital and Lourdes Hospital — are near at hand in Paducah. The third, the U.S. Enrichment Corp. uranium plant, is on a five-lane highway, Mr. Doolittle said.

        “Commuting to major employers — it's easy, it's efficient. We really don't have the congestion issues a lot of counties have,” Mr. Doolittle said in a telephone interview. “That's something we probably take for granted.”

        If you don't mind driving, you can “get out of the cities, a slower pace of life,” said Herschel Sexton, judge-executive of Menifee County, where 2,261 workers had an average commute of 36.1 minutes, fifth-longest in the state.


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