Before COVID-19 created a remote workforce, full-time employees were spending nearly an hour each day on average commuting to the office, according to the latest available federal data.
If that time was spent on the clock rather than in the car — as it has been for many during the COVID-19 crisis — workers could increase their income by $5,679 a year on average, according to a report by Lending Tree, an online lending company.
The average Nashville commuter’s income would be boosted by $5,161, the report says.
Lending Tree analyzed data of average commute times in America’s 100 largest cities and median earnings for full-time workers from the U.S. Census Bureau to determine the opportunity cost of commuting.
Nashville came in at No. 46.
Fremont, Calif., came in No. 1, with the costliest commute by far. The average round-trip commute time there is 73 minutes (third-longest time among the 100 cities), which equals an average annual opportunity cost of $15,065 — nearly $2,000 higher than the next city.
San Francisco, Calif., and Jersey City, N.J., take the next two spots.
Tulsa, Okla., has the shortest — and least costly — commute. The average round-trip commute in Tulsa is 37 minutes, or an average annual opportunity cost of $3,255 — roughly $11,800 a year less than in Fremont.
Toledo, Ohio, and Wichita, Kan., take the next two spots.
The only Tennessee city in the top 10 most- or least-expensive commutes is Memphis, which ranks among cities with the least-expensive commute, according to the report.
The Memphis commute is about 44 minutes, resulting in an opportunity cost of $3,757.
Drivers in six U.S. cities — none in Tennessee — face an average of more than $10,000 a year in opportunity costs because of their commutes.
Most cities with the shortest commute and lowest opportunity cost are in the South and Midwest, according to LendingTree’s analysis.
Having to deal with — and pay for — commuting again may compel workers to ask for a raise if required to return to the office, says Jacob Channel, LendingTree’s senior economic analyst.
“As people have grown accustomed to not having to [commute] they might go to their employers and say, look, if you want me to start commuting again, you’re going to have to start paying me for it,” Channel says.
LendingTree’s opportunity cost calculations are conservative given that they don’t include the additional commuting costs of public transportation, vehicle depreciation, gas, vehicle maintenance, parking fees, and tolls. You can read the full report on the Lending Tree website.