Bad Habits Are Hard to Break for US Metro Commuters

Despite significant investment in transit infrastructure, and renewed interest in downtowns and walkable neighborhoods, new data shows that gains in transit commute mode share have been hard to come by in America’s largest cities, says Kaid Benfield.

2 minute read

October 27, 2012, 7:00 AM PDT

By Erica Gutiérrez


"As most readers know only too well, the US pales by comparison to the rest of the world when it comes to getting around by anything other than single-occupancy cars," writes Benfield in a recent blog post. He adds, "[s]lowly but surely, the trend is now beginning to reverse as the hot markets are in downtowns and walkable neighborhoods, with the ones having good transit service commanding the highest premiums on a per-square-foot basis."

Despite these new trends, Benfield finds mixed results in the findings of a recent analysis examining 2011 American Community Survey results regarding metropolitan commuting patterns. Only New York City and Washington D.C, who lead in general transit usage with commute mode shares of 31.1 percent and 14.8 percent, respectively, significantly increased their transit mode shares in the last decade. New York, Boston and San Francisco all led the way in walking to work, with shares of 6.3 percent, 5.3 percent and 4.3 percent, respectively.

Nationwide, bike commuting is still relatively low, with most cities registering fewer than 2 percent shares. Portland (topping the list) and three Californian cities (the Bay Area, San Jose/Silicon Valley, and Sacramento) were the exceptions. Of interest, notes Benfield, is the finding that the 10 longest commutes all average around 30 minutes, a statistic that "has been fairly stable for centuries; only the modes and distances have changed."

Thursday, October 25, 2012 in Switchboard

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