Census Shows Slight Decline in Solo Car Commuting

For the first time in four years, a smaller share of Americans are driving to work alone.

Are American commuting habits fundamentally changing? Photo: ##http://www.riinsuranceblog.com/2011/04/10-ways-your-vehicle-affects-your-daily-commute/## RI Insurance Blog##

The 2011 estimates by the U.S. Census Bureau [PDF] show a razor-thin decline in solo car commuting, 76.6 to 76.4 percent. Meanwhile, public transit’s share ticked up slightly, to 5 percent from 4.9. While the numbers are small — well within the margin of error — the perceived decline in SOV commuting is a departure from trends going back to 2008, when the figure stood at 75.5 percent.

The Census Bureau’s findings conform to much of the recent research on trends in American transportation, including declining vehicle miles traveled, increasing public transit use and shifting generational preferences in favor of sustainable modes.

USA Today, in its reporting on the Census numbers, credited gas prices and the bad economy. The last time there was a decline in solo car commuting mode share was when the economy crashed in 2008, and estimated car commuting dropped by more than one-half percent.

The paper conducted its own analysis and determined that transit ridership had increased in two-thirds of the 342 metropolitan areas examined. The American Public Transportation Association is reporting its sixth consecutive quarterly ridership jump, the story said.

USA Today left readers with this: “Is this a product of the current economy or is this a new normal?” That seems to be still an open question. But this is one more hopeful sign.

  • Davistrain

    The terms “rounding error” and “margin of error” come to mind, in other words, this may be a hopeful sign, but don’t bet the ranch on it.  Bear in mind that people tend to be creatures of habit, and it often takes a figurative “two by four upside the head” to get us out of our comfort zones.  e.g. the 1989 “World Series Earthquake” that put the Bay Bridge out of commission and had BART running 24/7.

  • Fewer people are going to work period, thanks to the jobless recovery.

  • voltairesmistress

    People carpool here almost solely from self interest, particularly to take advantage of HOV lanes in congested commutes.  And those HOV lanes can make a commute from San Francisco to the South Bay bearable, though personally  think any daily car commute longer than 20 minutes is numbing.