Rating Nashville’s Commuter Traffic


A Comparison of Commute Times and Overall Traffic Volume in Comparable Cities

With the growth in population across the Greater Nashville area, it’s no wonder that commuter times across the area are growing longer. For several years running, the Middle Tennessee area has been rated as one of the top growing areas in the United States. Unlike most large metropolitan areas, we have more people choosing to drive and less people utilizing public transportation. U.S. News analyzed 100 metro areas in the U.S., looking at many of the demographics including commuter times and transportation use. Their report shows that about 92% of the Nashville metro area chooses to drive while only 1% chooses to use public transportation.

In early 2015, Scott Harrison, a reporter for Nashville Business Journal, reported (based off of TomTom’s GPS data for 2014) that the average Nashvillian spends nearly 3 days out of the year being stuck in traffic. In just the two years since, the TomTom Traffic Index shows that number has increased to 124 hours per year with an average of 32 minutes per day. Since 2008, the congestion level has increased nearly 10%, a percentage that is in line with the population increase.

This reported increase is also supported by the U.S. Census data on American Communities, though its data is more comprehensive. In 2010, they show that out of all the drivers in the area that commute daily (and 16 years of age or older) 39.1% spent more than 30 minutes commuting on a daily basis. Compare this to data in 2015, which shows that it is now closer to 40.6%. When we talk about the large population of Nashville area, that’s thousands more people who spend more than 30 minutes on the road everyday.

Using the census data, U.S. News, aggregated information to show what a daily commute looks like for those living all over Middle Tennessee.

-Most of those in Davidson County travel between 0 and 20 minutes.

-Most of Williamson County and Rutherford county drives somewhere between 20 and 30 minutes.

-Spring Hill, Lascassas and Lavergne are some of the smaller cities with the longest commutes, with people traveling anywhere from 30-50 minutes.

Nashville as a whole averages 26 minutes in their commute time with almost 82% driving alone, almost 10% carpooling, 1.3% using public transit, and 1.7% biking or walking.

The commute time of cities of similar size, including Atlanta, Austin, Charlotte, Denver, Indianapolis, Louisville, Memphis, Raleigh, and Tampa, is one of the highest with only Denver and Atlanta with higher commute times of 27 and 31 minutes respectively. In comparison to the types of transportation used though, Nashville’s commuter base is 9.8%, which is among the highest, with Atlanta at 10.3% and Austin at 10.1%, while public transportation use is among the lowest with Indianapolis, Memphis, and Raleigh having lower.

Davidson County has an average commute time of 23.8 min, reports the 2015 American Community Estimates from the Census Bureau. Like most places, this is led by those who travel alone at 79.1% followed by 11.1% of those who carpool. Public transit is roughly 3%, while other methods like walking and bicycle is about 2%. According to TDOT Traffic History, traffic counts among Nashville roads are just above 164,000 vehicles on average with numbers ranging closer to 170,000 in other places.

Williamson Inc (Williamson County’s Chamber of Commerce) recently published their Trends of 2017, which reports a 27 minute average commute for the majority of their population with just over 49% commuting to Nashville and 49% commuting within Williamson County. As far as traffic counts, this averages to just under 150,000 vehicles on the road in a single day. Out of those commuting, nearly 81% commutes alone with just over 7.5% carpooling and less than 1% using other methods of transportation. Leaving from Brentwood, traffic counts get as high as 181, 000.

Rutherford County isn’t much different from Williamson County with slightly higher commute times of 28 minutes as their average commute time. However, even more drive alone at nearly 83%, 11.1% carpooling, and less than 1% using other methods of transportation for commuting. Where Rutherford is significantly different is the number of residents that live and work in Rutherford County. In both demographics the majority of those who work in Rutherford, live there as well, with just over 78,000 falling into that category. Davidson County gets a large portion of the remaining people who work at 29,845. Traffic history from TDOT has counts as high as 157,000 heading into Davidson County, a nearly 50,000 increase in the last decade.

Many of the Middle Tennessee area leaders are looking to this data as a need for a change that reduces traffic and commute times across the area. In addition to local leaders, local technology company Hytch is also trying to help.

They are working on solutions to help alleviate traffic, such as rewarding people who share a ride. Whenever you share a ride (2+ people in a vehicle) Hytch lets you earn cash. Learn more about Hytch here.