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Solo Commuting and Teleworking are Fastest Growing Commute Choices

Baruch Feigenbaum
November 10, 2011, 4:17pm

The 2010 American Community Survey offers a wealth of data on commuting patterns. I previously addressed Commute Time to Work Increasing. My colleague Sam Staley highlighted how 99% of auto commuters used a car to get to work the previous day, but only 68.3% of transit riders used transit the previous day. Today, I want to highlight the modal shifts. The biggest increases occur in Solo Commuting and Teleworking. The biggest decrease occurs in Carpooling/Vanpooling. Transit and Cycling have also increased their shares. Alan Pizarski offers a good overview of the data at Brand Loyalty Dominates Trip to Work.

According to the Survey, more than 7 people Telecommuted for every 1 person who rode a bicycle and almost 2 people Telecommuted for every person who walked to work. From 2000 to 2010, the Cycling share increased from 0.4% to 0.6%. But this is still a very small share of total trips. Transit usage grew from 4.6% to 4.9%, but only one city, New York, had more than 15% of its commuters who chose transit. New York also had the lowest Carpool and Vanpool rate of the nation’s 51 major metro markets. Carpooling experienced the biggest decrease falling from 11.8% to 9.4%. Telecommuting experienced the biggest increase from 3.2% to 4.4%. The percentage of Solo Commuters increased from 75.6% to 76.5%. Because Solo Commuting has been the dominant mode, there are four times as many new Solo Commuters as new Telecommuters. There are eight times as many Solo Commuters as new Transit users. And there are sixteen times as many Solo Commuters as new Cyclists. 

Transit use has not grown everywhere. In the two biggest metro areas in Texas, Dallas and Houston, transit share declined despite new rail systems. This was not the point of building these new fixed-rail systems. Generally bus-rapid-transit systems experienced much faster growth than fixed-rail systems.

Analyzing trends over the past thirty years, only Solo Commuting and Telecommuting have increased share. Solo commuting has increased from 84.1% to 86.3%, a small but steady increase. Teleworking has increased from 2.3% to 4.3%. Transit ridership has declined from 6.2% to 4.9%. Cycling has held steady at 0.5% and Walking has decreased from 5.6% to 2.8%. During the past 50 years, Solo Commuting has increased by 22.3%, Transit has decreased 7.1% (a more than 50% decline in share), Walking has decreased 7.1% and Teleworking has decreased from 2.9%. (Teleworking is not an accurate statistic as in 1960 most Teleworkers were Family Farmers.)   

In summary, both Transit and Cycling have increased their market shares. However their total shares remain very low with Transit substantially below its historical average. Solo Commuting and Telecommuting experienced the largest increases. With an increasingly decentralized world and personalized employment choices, Solo Commuting and Telecommuting will likely continue their strong growth into the future.


Baruch Feigenbaum is Transportation Policy Analyst


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