Alternative Transportation Push Fails to Get Commuters Out of Their Cars

New data from the Census Bureau's American Community Survey shows that the percentage of commuters driving to work alone neared an all-time peak last year. State and national trends are working against progress being made by cities.

1 minute read

November 5, 2013, 1:00 PM PST

By Jonathan Nettler @nettsj


"American commuters prefer to go it alone—mostly by driving to the office, but increasingly by working from home," reports Neil Shah. "Last year, about 76% of workers 16 years and older drove to work alone—just shy of the all-time peak of 77% in 2005, according to data from the Census Bureau's American Community Survey."

After recent growth in group commuting, solo driving "has been ticking back up as the economy revives," he adds. "Meanwhile, just about every other way of getting to work has either languished or declined."

"These commuting trends come despite efforts to get people to use public transportation or other alternatives," notes Shah. "And a variety of forces are coming together to ensure that Americans continue to seek out lonely commutes—and the numbers could grow."

The work of alternative transportation advocates hasn't been for naught, however. Cities like New York, San Francisco, and Washington D.C. have witnessed the opposite trend, with solo drivers giving way to transit riders, walkers, and bicyclists. 

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