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Posts from the "Data" Category

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Census Data Shows How Much Less Millennials and Gen-Xers Commute by Car

Change in share of Generation X Commuters (aged 25-54) driving to work, 2007 to 2013. Image: Brookings, from analysis of American Community Survey data

Change in share of Generation X Commuters (aged 25-54) driving to work, 2007 to 2013. Image: Brookings, from analysis of American Community Survey data

Cross-posted from Brookings’ The Avenue blog. This article is the second in a short series examining new Census data on transportation trends.

Nationally, most commuters are still revving up their cars to get to work every morning, but the picture is more complicated when you look across different age groups.

Based on the latest Census data from the 2013 American Community Survey, changes are underway for younger and older commuters alike, especially in the country’s largest metropolitan areas.* By and large, Millennials and Generation X are leading the charge toward a range of alternate modes, including public transportation and walking, while Baby Boomers continue to use their cars at even higher levels.

Indeed, while 82.4 percent of workers ages 16 to 24 — the youngest working Millennials — commute to work by car, that share has fallen by nearly 1.3 percentage points in large metros since 2007 and nearly 4 percentage points less than they did in 1983.

Young Millennials also represent the commuters who most frequently take public transportation (5.8 percent of them commute that way) and walk to work (6.6 percent). They’re not only ditching the car in traditional multimodal hubs like San Francisco but in several smaller metros as well. For example, Tucson ranked first nationally in its transit growth among these workers, seeing their share rise 5.5 percentage points since 2007. Meanwhile, more young workers are walking in other university-centric metros like Syracuse (+3.6 percent since 2007), New Haven (+2.4), and Austin (+1.7).

Still, driving dips aren’t limited to Millennials; Generation X commuters are shifting away from private vehicles in nearly equal numbers. Overall, workers aged 25 to 54 saw their driving rate fall by 0.9 percentage points between 2007 and 2013. That drop equates to roughly 750,000 drivers — about the total number of commuters in Milwaukee — switching to other modes. That might help explain the stalling amount of miles driven across the country.

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Best Bike Cities? Forget the Census, Let’s Start Asking Mobile Apps

Bicycling patterns in Boston, created by users of activity-tracking app Human.

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Michael Andersen blogs for The Green Lane Project, a PeopleForBikes program that helps U.S. cities build better bike lanes to create low-stress streets.

The most popular bicycle transportation measurement system in the country is hopelessly skewed toward a niche activity.

We refer, of course, to the U.S. Census.

The niche activity: going to work.

Most Americans have jobs, of course. But going to and from work, which is the only bicycle activity the Census measures across the United States, accounts for less than 20 percent of our trips. Huge swaths of the population, including many of those with the most to gain from biking (the old, the young, the broke), don’t have jobs at all.

What’s more, our commutes tend to be the longest trips we take on a regular basis, which puts bicycling out of reach for millions of Americans. Census statistics provide a useful clue about which cities are doing biking right, but a flawed one — especially for the less intensely motivated bike users that U.S. cities have been redesigning their streets to serve.

A 10-month-old computer chip for the Apple iPhone may already be creating a better alternative.

The M7, a chip introduced last year that lets users gather data about their movements even while their smartphones are asleep, is the hardware behind Human, an activity-tracking mobile app that made a splash this month by using its users’ movement speed to create maps of walking, biking, running and motor vehicle transport in 30 cities around the world.

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Building a Bike-Ped Data Model That Planners Will Take Seriously

It’s hard to make the case for public spending on biking and walking without hard data. And quality data has been hard to come by. The Rails-to-Trails Conservancy is looking to change that. The group has taken on a new project to rigorously measure walking and biking on various corridors, providing baseline data that can help make the case for active transportation projects.

Arlington, Virginia, is one of RTC's 12 cities for the T-MAP project and already uses the eco-multi sensor on some trails. Photo: ##http://www.eco-compteur.com/Eco-MULTI.html?wpid=45127##Eco-Counter##

Arlington, Virginia, uses high-tech sensors to measure walking and biking on some trails. Photo: Eco-Counter

Existing measurements of how much people walk and bike have frustrating limitations. The Census recently released a trove of data on biking and walking, but the Census only attempts to measure commute trips and it doesn’t track specific routes. Strava, which makes an app for people to track their mileage, recently published maps of where its users are running and biking, but it doesn’t capture a representative slice of the population.

Now the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy is getting serious about collecting detailed information about how people use urban walking and biking trails. With a new project they say “may forever change how non-motorized transportation facilities are prioritized in American cities,” RTC is working with 12 cities to monitor their trails for one year. Combined with other datasets, the information on trail use will help calculate the benefits of proposed investments in walking and biking infrastructure. The program, which RTC is calling the Trail Modeling and Assessment Platform (T-MAP), is headed by an international trio of researchers.

The 12 cities — located in all nine of the country’s climatic zones — are: Albuquerque, Arlington, Billings, Colorado Springs, Fort Worth, Indianapolis, Miami, Minneapolis, New Orleans, Portland (Maine), San Diego, and Seattle.

“This is the kind of forecasting tool that has been used in roads planning for decades,” said Tracy Hadden Loh, RTC’s director of research and the chief architect of T-MAP. “That’s why we’ve come to see roads projects as ‘needs’ — because we can firmly calculate their impact. Decision-makers give credence to quantitative methods for prioritizing transportation investments. T-MAP will provide that rigorous, quantitative evidence of the impact of trails projects.”

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Talking Headways Podcast: A Deep Dive Into Biking and Walking Census Data

We were so excited about the first-ever Census report exclusively on biking and walking that we devoted this entire episode of the Talking Headways podcast to an interview with its author, Brian McKenzie.

Bike commuting is up 60 percent since 2000, the Census shows, and people with low incomes are by far the biggest proportion of the riding public.

People who bike and walk are hungry for reliable data. While government statistics on how much we drive are easy enough to come by, where would you go to find out how much we’re walking and biking? Strava? No. The Census is a better gauge of how active transportation patterns are shifting.

The Census data does have its limitations, and Brian talks candidly about those. But the data sheds light on who’s walking and biking for transportation, and how that’s changing in specific places.

Go on a dive deep with us. Here is a full half-hour just for you bike-ped dataheads. Enjoy. And talk to us in the comments.

PS: Talking Headways is available on iTunes or Stitcher or by signing up for our RSS feed.

PPS: Many thanks to those of you who have already donated to our spring pledge drive — especially those who specifically mentioned that you enjoy the podcast. Keep it coming!

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Low-Income Americans Walk and Bike to Work the Most

People with low incomes bike and walk far more than everyone else. Image: U.S. Census

People with low incomes commute by biking and walking far more than more affluent Americans. Image: U.S. Census

The U.S. Census Bureau just released its first-ever report exclusively on walking and biking [PDF]. Using data from the American Community Survey, the report shows how rates of active transportation vary by age, income, education, race, and the availability of a vehicle. It’s a lot more detail than the usual Census data release on how people get to work, which only breaks active commuting down by gender.

The Census report shows that low-income people bike and walk to work the most, hands down. Of those who make less than $10,000 a year, 1.5 percent commute by bike and 8.2 percent walk. In the $25,000-34,999 range, those numbers are halved. Then at the highest earning levels, active commuting rates start to creep back up. The income stats provide more evidence that safe walking and biking infrastructure isn’t mainly the concern of geared-up weekend warriors with expensive bikes.

Looking at education reveals more of a U pattern, with active commuting rates bottoming out in the middle. Out of five educational attainment levels categorized by the Census, people who’ve completed a graduate or professional degree — the highest level — have the highest bike commute rate (0.9 percent) and second-highest walk commute rate (2.7 percent). People who have not completed high school — the lowest level — walk to work the most (3.7 percent) and bike to work the second most (0.7 percent).

Compared to education, there’s a much clearer linear relationship between vehicle ownership and active commuting. Workers with no available vehicle walked four times more and biked three-and-a-half times more than workers with one available vehicle. Rates of active transportation decline with each additional vehicle.

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Could the Strava App Provide the Biking and Walking Data Cities Crave?

This ##Strava map shows that people run and ride bikes all over the Twin Cities area.

This Strava map shows that people run and ride bikes all over the Twin Cities area.

Strava may be making the leap from feel-good gadget for hard core exercise buffs to serious planning tool for cities looking to improve active transportation.

Strava is a mobile app that runners and cyclists use to record their activities, track their progress, and see their stats and personal records. Its website shows a bunch of young, fit, white people in performance gear, riding 12-ounce racing bikes in an aggressive position or running through woods with their feet never touching the ground. “Prove it,” seems to be their motto.

Rather than proving bragging rights about your latest personal record, Strava might be able to prove the need for safe cycling infrastructure on a heavily ridden route, or the increase in use since a protected bike lane was installed.

In addition to showing users the maps of their own routes, Strava is now releasing its global data online, creating heat maps of where people run and bike — or at least, where they run and bike with Strava tracking their movements. Users can separate out running and biking — the maps in this article only show biking.

... while this ##http://labs.strava.com/heatmap/#10/-77.17461/38.85868/blue/bike##Strava map## highlights the east-west divide in DC's active transportation.

… while this Strava map highlights the east-west divide in DC’s active transportation.

Oregon DOT has caught on to the utility of this information and has become the first state transportation agency to pay Strava for its data. Jonathan Maus at Bike Portland reported yesterday that ODOT has paid $20,000 for a “one-year license of a dataset that includes the activities of about 17,700 riders and 400,000 individual bicycle trips totaling 5 million BMT (bicycle miles traveled) logged on Strava in 2013.”

This data matters, Maus says:
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