The AvenueAmerica’s commuting choices: 5 major takeaways indigenous 2016 census dataAdie TomerTuesday, October 3, 2017

While Americans travel for a selection of reasons, yes sir arguably no more important trip each day than their commute to work. Every year, the U.S. Census office updates its nationwide statistics top top commuting habits. These statistics—which extend down to large cities—enable continuous benchmarks around how the American commute might be an altering or merely staying the same.

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Here space the biggest takeaways from the latest 2016 American ar Survey (ACS) data.

American commuters still largely depend ~ above cars

It’s difficult to look in ~ American commuting habits and also not report the obvious: Americans are still largely dependent top top the automobile. Over 76 percent that Americans drive alone to job-related every day, while an additional 9 percent carpool through someone else. Since ACS counted 150 million workers in 2016, it is at least 115 million cars and also trucks hitting American roadways every day. It’s no wonder jam is therefore pervasive during morning and afternoon sirloin hours.

These driving rates come in ~ a real price to American households. Owning and maintaining a private vehicle is expensive, and one that the factors transportation is the second-highest average expense after housing. With average incomes stalled in inflation-adjusted terms—and countless metro areas seeing even deeper consist of challenges—driving represents a far-reaching cost burden for many.


Nationally, commuting shares space stubbornly persistent

America’s deep commitment to driving is also nothing new. Looking in ~ ACS estimates in between 2007 and 2016, no transportation mode saw its share of complete commuters change an ext than 1.5 portion points. Even with all the roadways widened, transit currently built, ride-hailing services launched, and also bike share systems introduced, we’re tho looking in ~ the same fundamental distribution that commuter choice.


Now, this doesn’t mean the same number of people are taking each mode. As the U.S. Populace continues to rise and much more people room working, the variety of commuters is additionally up. So also though driving rates dipped slightly, there are still more cars ~ above the road. The same uses to bikes and also transit, too.

Crucially, as much more commuters drive to work, their fuel-inefficient dare remain one of the gravest threats to ecological sustainability. Just last year, the U.S power Information management reported the transportation came to be the economy’s number one polluting sector. Merely put, if american can’t obtain out of your cars—or your cars continue to be combustion-based rather than making the switch to electrified engines sustained by renewables—there’s no means cities, states, or the nation can reach their carbon-reduction targets.

However, urban are beginning to command shifts far from driving

While nationwide commuting actions may it is in persistent, cities prove the mode transition is possible.

This consists of driving rates. Over the last decade, 21 of the country’s 50 most-populated cities witnessed a far-reaching drop in driving.* Seattle has earned significant headlines because that seeing the residents’ solo driving rate drop below 50 percent, when Oakland, Calif., Washington, D.C., and also Nashville, Tenn. Saw their solo control rates autumn by at least 3 portion points. However, not every city diminished their solo driving. Los Angeles’ solo driving rate ticked-up through 2 percent points, while Miami and also Houston approached 4 percentage allude increases. Considering their deep commitment to transit indigenous the ballot booth and mayor’s office, the Los Angeles story will be fascinating come watch end the next decade.

On the upper and lower reversal side, it’s not your imagination—there yes, really are much more cyclists in many big cities. Far-ranging rate increases arisen in 22 the 50 cities, with only one city (Las Vegas) witnessing a decrease. Relative bike hubs choose Portland, Ore. And Boston likewise keep pushing up the demonstrated ceiling for metropolitan bike commuting, especially if public policy supports a safe and also networked biking environment. Together with walking increases and working native home, this non-driving modes boosted in all however three large cities.


Cities faced a an ext mixed photo for publicly transit, with 7 cities see a significant increase in transit commuting rates, but 12 see a significant decrease. No one were all results what one would expect. Also with dynamic investment via FasTracks, Denver’s transit share dropped. Meanwhile, Jacksonville, Fla. Observed an uptick without sizable brand-new capital projects.

Working indigenous home continues its increase climb

We’ve written about it before, our colleague Rob Puentes referred to as it out in a current column, and also Justin Fox walk the exact same this year—more and more Americans are working from home. The immediate explanation here is the virtuous mix of vast broadband availability, prevalent video software, and also relaxed telecommuting policies. However keep in mind that the ACS counts anyone that works from house in these numbers, not just those who digitally login to a job. In other words, we’re likely seeing much more telecommuters, the transforming nature that work, and probably the two merged for many.

What’s particular is the ubiquity of the trend: 32 that 50 cities witnessed a significant increase in work from residence rates. The included big jumps in high-tech hubs like Austin, Texas, progressed service hubs choose Charlotte, N.C., and even freight hubs like Memphis, Tenn.

We need better data to catch mode transition in the digital era

But in experimenting these numbers, over there is a whole group of questions that we merely cannot answer: how has actually the explosion in smartphone-related applications changed commuting habits? for example, existing research mirrors that ride-hailing spikes throughout off-peak commuting hours, saying many users room not ride-hailing for work. That way ACS merely can’t tell united state anything around them. And also for those who carry out ride-hail to commute, ACS collapses taxi and also motorcycles under one category—assuming ride-hailing users would even select taxis as the equivalent choice.

This is simply the reminder of the iceberg, however. ACS is an significant asset for commuting research, complete stop. Yet the majority of every trips room not commutes, and we merely don’t have actually the same kind the annual, geographically-extensive databases come tell united state much about non-work trips. In one era once bike sharing and ride-hailing are widening rapidly, once smartphone penetration proceeds to grow, and more of America’s innovation economy turns to brand-new mobility solutions—including a future through autonomous vehicles—it’s imperative for public organ from the federal level down to develop new resources to track change in future take trip behavior.

*Estimates denoted as a statistically far-ranging change reflect the outcomes of a statistical meaning test at the 90% level.

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METHODOLOGICAL NOTE: because metropolitan area definitions readjust between decades and also 1-year ACS data doesn’t include all counties early out to population limitations, the not feasible to encompass perfectly comparable, constant metropolitan data because that the period. However, cities carry out stay roughly consistent and enable such neighborhood longitudinal evaluation via the 1-year ACS data.