Commuting in a tech city

Which cities offer tech workers the best quality of life? 

If you’re a tech employee looking for low rents and a short commute to the office which cities tick the box?

Commuting times are important to workers – no one wants to spend more time (and money) than they have to getting to and from work. For those in the tech industry, however, the amount of time you spend getting to the office can vary dramatically depending on where you’re based.

We calculated average commuting times across 22 tech cities by identifying the neighbourhoods in each city that staff in a tech ‘scale-up’ are most likely to live in, then measuring the one-way travel time from there to key office locations via the most appropriate mode of transport – usually the metro/subway, but sometimes walking, cycling or driving.

The results show that tech workers in Bengaluru, Hong Kong and Seattle have the longest commutes, averaging about 45 minutes, while those in Austin, Melbourne and Stockholm have the shortest, reaching the office in an average of just over 18 minutes. In general, commuting times in European tech cities are the lowest at 27 minutes one way, compared with 31 minutes in US cities and 39 minutes in Asian cities.

Savills Tech Cities 2017: one-way commute times versus weekly mainstream rental costs    

 

But commute time is only one part of the story: for tech employees the cost of renting a home is also key. When we look at this it reveals that while Austin may have the fastest commute it also has some of the highest residential rental costs at US$476; Seoul, with one of the longest commutes, has the cheapest rents at US $153 per week.

So, all things considered, which cities are best to live in if you’re looking to balance commuting time and rental costs?

Berlin’s tech households pay only US$180 per week in rent and have one of the shortest commuting times (23 minutes) of all the cities we surveyed. This is because most of the sector's workers are based in the Kreuzberg district, a tech quarter where accommodation is still comparatively cheap, enabling workers to live relatively close to where they work. Berlin also comes top of Savills Tech Cities ‘buzz and wellness index’.

Melbourne (19 minutes/US$306) and Stockholm (20 minutes/US$280) compete with Berlin, with relatively low rental costs and short commutes. But it’s worth remembering that in other cities, such as San Francisco, New York and London, the pay-off for higher rents and longer commutes is that workers are in bigger global metropolises that deliver in terms of ‘buzz’, and often (although not always) receive higher-than-average tech salaries, so rental costs may be lower as a proportion of their overall income.

All of Savills 22 tech cities have their own individual strengths, whether that is an exciting night life, abundant open green space, young dynamic populations, or low real estate costs, with some managing to excel on several different fronts. Ultimately it’s down to the individual tech worker to prioritise what they’re looking for and are prepared to compromise on.

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