Northeast Mississippi commuters find peace on the road

By Carlie Kollath Wells/NEMS Daily Journal

Lesia Lee spends about 45 minutes commuting to work each wayfor her job at aTupelo retailer.
The Houston resident has been making the drive for the past 20 years.
“I enjoy my job,” she said.“Even though it’s 45 minutes away, it’s worth it. … You’ve got to support your family and you have to go where the job is.”
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Mississippians spend about 24 minutes commuting to work each way. The mean travel time across the country is 25.4 minutes, the data said. But in Northeast Mississippi, the times can be almost half the state average, depending where you live. In larger cities like Tupelo and Oxford, the commute time is shorter. The data found residents in Benton and Marshall counties spend the most time commuting.
Michael Upton used to have a short commute – about seven minutes – when he lived in Oxford and worked at Ole Miss in the fundraising department. But three years ago, he and his wife decided to build a home on family land in the Ballardsville community, which is on the line of Lee and Itawamba counties. His commute now is an hour each way, but he said he has no regrets.
“It’s a job I love to have because it gives back to the university I love,” he said. “The benefits outweigh the drive.”
Lee said she thought about shortening her commute and moving to Tupelo, but her mom had a house in Houston so Lee made it her home.
“I prefer to drive back and forth,” she said after her 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. shift last week. “I drive the Trace and set it on cruise. … It gives me time to pray and meditate and clear my mind before I get here.”

Your daily commute

If you live in Benton County, you spend more time driving to work than anyone else in Northeast Mississippi, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau. The mean commute time for a Benton County resident is 36.5 minutes, compared with 23.9 minutes for the average Mississippian.
Oxford residents spend the least time driving to work (13.8 minutes), with Tupelo residents coming in next (15.4 minutes).
The travel times below are from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey and reflect estimates of workers 16 and up from 2007 to 2011.
Travel time to work refers to the total number of minutes that it usually took the person to get from home to work each day during the reference week. The elapsed time includes time spent waiting for public transportation, picking up passengers in carpools and time spent in other activities related to getting to work.
– Carlie Kollath Wells

Mean travel time to work (minutes), workers age 16+, 2007-2011
USA 25.4
Alcorn County 20.0
Benton County 36.5
Calhoun County 24.0
Chickasaw County 24.4
Clay County 22.0
DeSoto County 25.0
Itawamba County 24.2
Lafayette County 18.3
Lowndes 20.5
Marshall 32.3
Monroe 21.7
Oktibbeha 17.4
Pontotoc County 25.5
Prentiss County 22.7
Tippah County 22.6
Tishomingo County 22.0
Union County 24

Aberdeen 17.7
Amory 17.6
Booneville 17.6
Corinth 17.5
Holly Springs 24.5
New Albany 19.4
Oxford 13.8
Pontotoc 19.5
Ripley 19.6
Starkville 16.7
Tupelo 15.4
West Point 19.4

Hernando 26.2
Horn Lake 25.2
Jackson 19.8
Olive Branch 25.4
Southaven 22.5

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