With carpooling and mass transit use down, island workers are leaving for their jobs earlier to avoid traffic and shorten their commutes.

Despite the increasing cost of fuel and a push for environmentally friendly commuting habits, more Hawaii residents are driving alone to work than a decade ago, according to a Civil Beat analysis of data from the U.S. Census and new American Community Survey.

More than two-thirds (66.8 percent) of Hawaii’s workers take their own car, truck or van to the office, up from 63.9 percent in the 2000 census. Carpooling dropped, from 19 percent to 15.6 percent, and public transportation usage dropped from 6.3 percent to 5.6 percent.

The percent of commuters driving solo to work increased in 81 of Hawaii’s 131 towns, while carpooling dropped in 99 communities.1 Laie residents were the least likely to drive alone — only 36.8 percent did so. In Maunaloa on Molokai, 89.9 percent drove alone. (See the Full Table.)

Despite the changes, Hawaii still ranks at or near the top in the country in all three metrics.

State Percent Carpool Rank
Hawaii 15.6% 1
Alaska 13.8% 2
Arizona 13.4% 3
New Mexico 12.6% 4
Utah 12.6% 5

State Percent Public
New York 26.5% 1
New Jersey 10.4% 2
Massachusetts 9.0% 3
Illinois 8.8% 4
Maryland 8.7% 5
Hawaii 5.6% 6

State Percent car/
truck/van alone
New York 54.0% 1
Hawaii 66.8% 2
Alaska 67.0% 3
New Jersey 71.8% 4
Oregon 72.1% 5

Source: Civil Beat Analysis of American Community Survey dataFull Table

But with more drivers taking their own vehicles to work and more total residents on the islands, commuters have taken to leaving home earlier to ensure they avoid traffic and make it to work on time.

The percentage of commuters leaving home before 6 a.m. went up in 89 of 131 Hawaii towns, including two communities south of Hilo where it more than tripled. The percentage leaving before 7 a.m. went up in 88 towns.

Of the 463 adult residents of Naalehu who work outside of their home, according to the American Community Survey, more than half (53.6 percent) leave before 6 a.m., nearly three-fourths (72.4 percent) leave before 7 a.m. and nearly all (97.4 percent) leave before 8 a.m. The community, near South Point on the Big Island, leads the state in all three metrics.

The resort-adjacent communities of Kapalua and Maalaea on Maui had the lowest percentages in the state. See the Full Table.

A higher proportion of Hawaii commuters leave for work before 6 a.m. and before 7 a.m. than any other state in the country.

State Before 6 a.m. Rank
Hawaii 20.4% 1
Arizona 19.0% 2
Nevada 17.3% 3
Alabama 16.6% 4
Louisiana 16.1% 5

State Before 7 a.m. Rank
Hawaii 44.5% 1
Alabama 39.3% 2
Arizona 39.2% 3
Mississippi 39.2% 4
Louisiana 37.8% 5

State Before 8 a.m. Rank
Mississippi 69.1% 1
Alabama 68.6% 2
Hawaii 67.9% 3
Louisiana 67.1% 4
Arkansas 66.9% 5

Source: Civil Beat Analysis of American Community Survey dataFull Table

Leaving for work earlier may be helping keep commute times steady. Of 131 communities statewide, 56 have reduced the percentage of workers who drive more than 30 minutes to work, 69 have reduced the percentage who drive more than 45 minutes, and 70 have reduced the percentage who drive more than an hour. The average commute time across the state dipped slightly from 26.1 minutes in 2000 to 25.6 minutes in the new survey.2

Hawaiian Ocean View’s 1,008 adult commuters have the state’s longest commutes, with 82.5 percent driving more than 30 minutes, 75.2 percent driving more than 45 minutes and 63 percent driving more than an hour. Lanai City’s 1,248 commuters, by comparison, are right around the corner. Just 3.6 percent have to drive more than 30 minutes to the office.

See the Full Table.

Despite the decreases, Hawaii’s commutes are still among the longest in the nation. Only five states have a higher percentage of residents who spend more than 30 minutes traveling to the office.

Geography 30+ minutes Rank
Maryland 48.6% 1
New York 47.3% 2
New Jersey 43.5% 3
Illinois 42.5% 4
Massachusetts 41.0% 5
Hawaii 40.0% 6

Geography 45+ minutes Rank
New York 26.3% 1
Maryland 25.1% 2
New Jersey 22.9% 3
Illinois 21.1% 4
Massachusetts 19.1% 5
Hawaii 16.6% 9

Geography 60+ minutes Rank
New York 16.3% 1
Maryland 13.7% 2
New Jersey 13.5% 3
Illinois 11.2% 4
California 10.0% 5
Hawaii 7.8% 13

Source: Civil Beat Analysis of American Community Survey dataFull Table

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