Courtney Cahoon doesn’t mince words when asked about her daily commute.
It’s 36 miles one way — or about 45 minutes on a perfect day — from her home in Fairlawn to her teaching job at Cleveland Heights High School.
“I hate it,” Cahoon, 27, said of the drive she makes as part of a car pool with fellow teachers Matt Meister and Andrew Bennekamper.
She’s not alone in her feelings — or in her lengthy trip.
One in four commuters leaves a home county to go to work, and the average one-way commute nationwide is 25.5 minutes, according to data the U.S. Census Bureau recently released.
The bureau’s American Community Survey report provides a glimpse into where Americans are working and how long it takes to get there. It also shows more people (27.4 percent compared with 26.7 percent in 2000) than ever are traveling outside their county to work, presumably following available jobs.
About 8 percent of workers have commutes of an hour or more — and a hearty 600,000 have mega-commutes of at least 90 minutes.
In the Akron area, the report shows, you’re much more likely to work in your home county if you live in Summit, Stark or Wayne. In each of those counties, more than 70 percent of the people who work there also live there.
But Medina and Portage counties are filled with commuters, with more than 50 percent of residents crossing the county line to go to work.
Other local statistics include:
• Plenty of people leave and come into Summit County for work. About 70,000 people commute out of the county. Meanwhile, about 84,000 make the trek into the county.
• Nearly 36,000 Summit workers commute to Cuyahoga County — more than any other location.
• In Medina, 34 percent of the workers are going to Cuyahoga; 12 percent are off to Summit. Meanwhile, in Portage, 24 percent go to Summit and 16 percent travel to Cuyahoga.
• Wayne County workers have the shortest commutes, lasting only 20.1 minutes on average. Medina residents have the longest at 26.5 minutes.
• More than 86 percent of Summit workers make their commute alone, compared with the national rate of 76.4 percent.
While Cahoon isn’t thrilled with her lengthy drive, she feels lucky to be able to work at a job she loves, no matter how long it takes to get there.
She used to teach in Akron Public Schools and had a 12-minute ride to work. She lost that job because of financial cuts in the district.
She wanted to remain in an urban setting and landed a job last year teaching ninth-grade English in Cleveland Heights.
“It’s like a double-edged sword,” Cahoon said about her commute. “I hate it, but I would never move to Cuyahoga County because ... the housing prices are a lot more up there. You get a lot less for your money than in Summit. And I love the Akron area.”
She also sees a silver lining.
“It’s nice not having to worry about going to Target and seeing your students because they don’t live around me,” Cahoon said with a laugh.
Cahoon, Meister and Bennekamper are part of only 7 percent of Summit workers who carpool, compared with 9.7 percent nationally.
Bennekamper, 46, of Bath Township used to make the drive alone. He prefers carpooling partly because he can chat with the others, whether it’s about work or life in general. Then, there’s the biggest benefit.
“It’s nice to have someone else do the driving every now and then,” he said.
The downside for many who make a lengthy commute is sitting in traffic jams or dealing with other unpredictable motorists.
Peg Shaw-Cahoon, 56, director of sales and operations planning at GOJO Industries Inc., makes a daily drive from her home in Jackson Township to Cuyahoga Falls.
State Route 8 is the worst, she and other commuters said.
“The people who cut in and out and in and out,” said Shaw-Cahoon, the mother of Courtney Cahoon. “It’s very frustrating.”
Marissa Pappas, 25, makes a 45-minute drive from Copley Township to her job as an assistant prosecutor in Ashland County.
She has been making that trip since November and so far it has been pretty easy, she said, mainly because there isn’t much traffic on Interstate 71 between Medina and Ashland.
“It’s not a bad drive at all,” Pappas said. “If I had to fight traffic, I wouldn’t be as positive about my drive.”
Asked why she doesn’t move closer to work, she said she doesn’t want to leave her family, friends, church and gym in the Akron area.
“I could never leave Akron,” she said. “I’ve lived there my whole life.”
Price of gas
For some, the price of gas is as painful, if not more, than the drive.
Beth Sahadi, 33, of Willoughby, commutes to downtown Akron each day for her job with Summit County.
She has been making that 45-minute, one-way trip — again, on a perfect day — for six years. She estimated her Ford Explorer consumes about $500 a month in gas.
“My friends think I’m crazy,” she said.
She doesn’t make the entire trip alone. Her 4-year-old daughter goes to day care in Stow and is around for about half the ride.
But Sahidi admitted it’s time either to move closer to Summit or to get a job nearer to where she lives.
“It takes away from family time,” she said about the lengthy commute.
Not everyone has to worry about gas prices. About 1 percent of Summit workers take public transportation, compared with 5 percent nationally. (Also, about 5 percent of local workers walk or ride a bike to work, or they work at home.)
Matt Neidert, 33, of Akron, hops aboard the Northcoast Express, an Akron Metro Regional Transit Authority bus, that takes him to downtown Cleveland.
Once there, he transfers to another bus and finally arrives on the east side of downtown at Dealer Tire, where he works as a pricing and merchandising manager.
The one-way, 33-mile trip takes about 70 minutes on an average day. But it has taken as long as two hours because of accidents or bad weather.
Neidert estimated he pays about $10 a day to use the buses.
Last year, Metro’s two Northcoast buses had 89,999 riders to and from Cleveland, a 5 percent increase from the previous year.
Neidert loves the fact he doesn’t have to drive. Because the bus has Wi-Fi, he can prepare for meetings and do work online. Or, on the way home, he can catch a quick nap.
“I loathe the days that I have to drive into work for any reason,” he said.
Rick Armon can be reached at 330-996-3569 or firstname.lastname@example.org.