More Americans Than Ever Commuting To Work Alone In Their Car

Despite the attention that global warming has received in the U.S., most Americans aren't choosing more eco-friendly commutes.

"Global warming may be the nation's latest roadside attraction, but the American obsession with the carbon-spewing automobile still seems to be charging full speed ahead.

Seventy-seven percent of workers in the United States – more than 102 million people – drive alone to and from work, up from 1990, according to recently released US Census data, based on surveys conducted in 2005. This happened despite the fact that retail gasoline prices rose by 60 cents per gallon in that same 15-year period, controlling for inflation.

The news comes amid growing hype about going green, in an age when climate change has become as common a conversation topic as its quotidian counterpart, the weather. It could indicate that when it comes to transit, Americans talk the talk, but – put simply – aren't walking.

"People don't have flexibility to respond quickly to changes. And Americans have almost grown accustomed to seeing a three in front of the price of gasoline," says Alan Pisarski, a transportation behavior analyst and author of the "Commuting in America" series. "There's an immense benefit – whether it's convenience or control – that people garner from driving alone." "

Full Story: More US commuters drive solo



Why Americans drive alone

I don't challenge the figures Pisarski cites; I do however disagree with his conclusions. I think more people DO care about the environment than he seems to think do. But how many people are willing to spend two more hours a day commuting in order to not drive? That's a pretty big request of most folks.

I think it's time we dispense with this myth that we're "in love with" or "addicted to" our cars. For most Americans, the car is the only viable option they have, due to decades of little to no investment in other means of transportation.

If good transit options - light rail, BRT, streetcar, etc. - are available and are competitive in terms of time and convenience, people will use them. Same with bicycling. Combine the infrastructure improvements with better land use decisions and increased density, and non-auto mode use gets even better. Look at Portland, which has focused on improving these modes. Despite the national Census trends, Portland shows growth in transit and cycling as commute modes.

Prepare for the AICP* Exam

Join the thousands of students who have utilized the Planetizen AICP* Exam Preparation Class to prepare for the American Planning Association's AICP* exam.
Starting at $245

Essential Readings in Urban Planning

Planning on taking the AICP* Exam? Register for Planetizen's AICP * Exam Preparation Course to save $25.
Planetizen Courses image ad

Looking for the perfect last-minute gift?

A one-year subscription to Planetizen Courses is the gift that will continue giving all year long.
Wood necklace with city map

City Necklaces

These sweet pendants are engraved on a cedar charm with a mini map of selected cities. The perfect gift for friends and family or yourself!