“For me it is always like half an hour”: Exploring the acceptable travel time concept in the US and European contexts

Key takeaway:

  • Compared to people in Berkeley, CA, people in Delft, The Netherlands had a lower tolerance for and lesser satisfaction with longer commute times. This variation in acceptable travel times can be attributed to differences in urban, transport, national, and sociocultural contexts.


  • In Berkeley and Delft, people were more negative than positive about a 0-minute commute time. People highly value the transition time between home and work and perceived working from home as unproductive and distracting.
  • In Berkeley and Delft, people thought that a 15-minute commute time was quick, convenient, and nice. 15 minutes gave them enough flexibility to return home as necessary, while also providing separation between home and work.
  • In Berkeley, people gave equally positive and negative responses for the 30-minute commute time. Meanwhile, in Delft, people were predominantly negative for this commute time, considering it inefficient, too long, and tiring. For walkers, a 30-minute commute is associated with sweating. For public transport commuters, a 30-minute commute is associated with more transfers.
  • In both cities, negative responses sharply increased for the 45-minute commute time (more so in Delft than in Berkeley) and remained very high for the 60-minute and over 60-minute commutes.
  • Acceptable travel time based on commute mode:





36.3 minutes

33.1 minutes

Public transport

60 minutes

42.5 minutes


25 minutes

38.8 minutes


48.8 minutes

31.3 minutes

  • The acceptable commute time typically exceeded actual commute times.
  • The average ideal commute time in Berkeley and Delft was 20 minutes and 14.7 minutes, respectively, while the average acceptable commute time was 42.5 minutes and 36.4 minutes, respectively.



  • The researchers interviewed 32 adults in Delft, The Netherlands, about their acceptable travel time. They compared this with results from a 2015 study of acceptable travel time among 20 adults in Berkeley, CA.


Milakis, D. & van Wee, B. (2018). “For me it is always like half an hour”: Exploring the acceptable travel time concept in the US and European contexts. Transport Policy, 64.

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