Atlanta commute costliest in nation

LAWRENCEVILLE - Metro Atlanta is the most expensive place in the nation for commuters, according to a research firm that studies the "livability" of U.S. cities.

Because the region's sprawl leads to longer commute distances, a family with two workers can expect to pay $5,772 a year for regular-grade gasoline, according to Sperling's BestPlaces.

Birmingham, Ala.; Orlando, Fla.; Jacksonville, Fla.; and Pensacola, Fla., round out the top five.

Wide-ranging growth is what's putting a dent in driver's pocketbooks, said the Portland, Ore.-based company's president, James Sperling.

"Basically it's the number of miles that people drive on a regular basis and the price of gas," Sperling said.

"Of course gas is higher all over the U.S. and it's higher in other places than in Atlanta, but when you factor in the number of miles and congestion, that puts Atlanta at the top of the list."

Sperling's based its findings on the price of gas on May 9, and the distance motorists drive and the amount of traffic congestion they encounter.

Large cities in the South and Midwest made the top 10 because their sprawling development requires typical commuters to travel more than 60 miles roundtrip each day, according to Sperling's.

Two California cities - Los Angeles and San Diego - made the top 10 because they have some of the nation's highest gas prices. Commutes there generally cover 45 miles roundtrip, Sperling's said.

Matt Kanke, who has a commute that would make many road warriors envious, said he isn't surprised that metro Atlanta has the priciest commute.

"People should try to live closer to where they work," said Kanke, who drives seven minutes between his residence off Duluth Highway and his job at a Petco pet supply store on Riverside Drive in Lawrenceville.

That's not an option for a multitude of people, but it's not preventing them from finding ways to save money, like car pooling or taking advantage of cash incentives offered by The Clean Air Campaign.

Since last year participation in the The Clean Air Campaign's Cash for Commuters program, which offers $3 a day to those who give up solo drives in favor of other commute options, has increased 89 percent, said campaign spokeswoman Tracy Paden.

More people are also using 1-87-RIDEFIND to find a carpool partner or vanpool, Paden said. More information about the programs is available at www.cleanaircampaign.com.