Category Archives: Useful Data

2014 Transportation Energy Data Posted

The energy efficiency of the average car on the road increased slightly in 2014 as did air travel, but the average light truck and Amtrak used slightly more BTUs per passenger mile in 2014 than in 2013. That’s the finding from the latest edition of the Transportation Energy Data Book (6.5-MB PDF), which was posted on line on Monday. Specifically, these numbers are from tables 2-15, highway modes, and 2-16, non-highway modes.

The book is published each year by the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory. In addition to the book in PDF format and the individual spreadsheets for each of the 250 tables in the book, they usually have a link to all the spreadsheets in ZIP format, but the isn’t available yet.

According to the spreadsheets, most forms of urban transit became a little more energy efficient in 2014. I suspect declining fuel prices will produce some different results for 2015. Transit ridership is falling, so transit’s energy efficiency per passenger mile is likely to decline, as is Amtrak’s. If falling fuel prices allowed airlines to keep fares lower and fill more seats, airline fuel efficiencies may increase.

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Driving Alone to Work without a Car

The share of American workers who live in households with no vehicles yet nonetheless drive alone to work grew from 20.4 percent in 2014 to 20.9 percent in 2015, according to the latest American Community Survey. This growth came at the expense of slight declines in carpooling, transit, work-at-homes, and “other” (taxi, bicycle, motorcycle), while walking to work increased slightly. No one knows for certain how people with no cars drive alone to work, but most probably use employer-supplied vehicles.

You can download 2015 commuting data by numbers of vehicles in the household for the nation, states, and counties, cities and other places, and urbanized areas. For comparison, 2014 data for the nation, states, and counties, cities, and urbanized areas are also available.

Only 4.5 percent of American workers live in households with no vehicles, a share that remained stable from 2014 to 2015. Nearly a third of them are in the New York urban area. Outside of the New York area, the only places with double-digit vehicle-less households tend to be in the Boston, San Francisco-Oakland, and Washington, DC urban areas.

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Housing Affordability in 2014

For the United States as a whole, the value of a median-priced owner-occupied home increased from 2.7 times median family incomes in 2013 to 2.8 times in 2014. The 2014 numbers are from the 2015 American Community Survey, which estimates both home values and family incomes for the year before the survey. In the survey, median family incomes are found in table B19101 while median home values are in table B25077.

You can download my spreadsheets combining data from these two tables from the 2015 survey (which, remember, are for 2014) for the nation, states, and counties, urbanized areas, and cities and other places. For comparison, data for 2013 (from the 2014 survey) can be downloaded for nation, states, and counties, urbanized areas, and cities and other places.

In places where land for new housing is abundant, value-to-income ratios tend to hover around 2. Value-to-income ratios above 3 suggest real or artificial limits on the ability of homebuilders to meet the demand for new housing. While the national ratio of 2.8 is worrisome, many states are well under this ratio.

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2015 Commuting Data

The share of commuters driving alone to work grew from 80.0 percent in 2014 to 80.3 percent in 2015, according to the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey. This increase came at the expense of carpoolers; the share of people taking transit, walking, and cycling remained the same.

The Census Bureau posted 2015 data early this month, giving data junkies lots of information to play with. The bureau has conducted the American Community Survey every year since 2005 based on surveys sent out to about 3.5 million households each year. This makes it far more reliable than a typical poll, which usually surveys only a few hundred people. However, the data should still be used with caution for small categories, such as the number of Latinos living in households with no cars who walk to work in Buffalo, New York.

To save you time, the Antiplanner has downloaded journey-to-work data, table B08301, for the nation, states, and counties, urbanized areas, and cities and other places. For comparison, I’ve also posted the same raw data for 2014: nation, states, and counties, urbanized areas, and cities and other places.

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The Politicization of Data

A few weeks ago, the Antiplanner reported on a questionable change in transportation data published by the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. An even more questionable change can be found in table VM-1 of Highway Statistics, an annual report published by the Federal Highway Administration.

Before 2009, Highway Statistics regularly appeared months before the Federal Transit Administration published its annual National Transit Database for the same year. There may have been good reasons for that: the highway data depended on reports from the 50 states and District of Columbia, while the transit data depended on data from nearly 700 transit agencies (as of 2008; more than 850 today). Collecting, reviewing, and collating all that data no doubt took a lot of time.

After Obama took office, a funny thing happened: the highway data started coming out after the transit data. In some cases, not just months, but years after. For example, the on-line 2009 Highway Statistics is still missing some minor tables, and one of the most important tables about highway finance, HF-10, is still missing from the 2011 edition.

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A Questionable Change in Data

According to page 57 the European Union publication, Panorama of Transport, 43 percent of American freight is shipped by rail and 30 percent goes by truck. This makes the American rail freight system the envy of the world, as just 10 percent of European freight goes by rail, with 46 percent going by truck, and just 4 percent of Japanese freight goes by rail, with 60 percent going by truck.

The EU got its U.S. data from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics’ annual National Transportation Statistics report. However, if you look at the most recent edition of table 1-50: U.S. ton-miles of freight in that report, you won’t find those numbers at all. Instead (using 2006 data), something like 42 percent of freight goes by truck while only 32 percent goes by rail. That’s still a greater share of freight going by rail than in Europe or Japan, but a reversal in dominance between rail and trucks.

Yet the Panorama of Transport didn’t get it wrong. I have the corresponding table from the 2008 edition of National Transportation Statistics, and the numbers for 2006 in that table agree with those used by the EU. So what happened to change the numbers?

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Transit’s Share of Urban Travel in 2014

Transit carried 16.6 percent of motorized travel in Honolulu, more than in any other urban area in the country. New York is second at 11.9 percent, followed by San Francisco at 7.9 percent, Chicago at 4.0 percent, State College PA at 3.7 percent, Seattle at 3.5 percent, Lompoc CA at 3.3 percent, and Boston at 3.2 percent. Philadelphia, Salt Lake (but see below), Portland, Baltimore, Los Angeles, Louisville, and six smaller urban areas are between 2 and 3 percent, and 35 urban areas are between 1 and 2 percent. Transit’s share in the remaining 350 or so urban areas is less than 1 percent.

The Antiplanner calculated these numbers using the newly posted table HM-72, “Urbanized area summary,” from the 2014 Highway Statistics, and from my summary spreadsheet of the 2014 National Transit Database. The National Transit Database has annual passenger miles of transit use by agency and designates which urban area is served by each agency; my summary spreadsheet totals the numbers for each urban area. Table HM-72 has daily vehicle miles of travel by urbanized area.

To convert daily vehicle miles to annual passenger miles, I multiplied daily by 365–unlike the transit people, the highway agencies use the average of all days in the week, not the weekday average–and then by 1.6 to account for vehicle occupancy. I calculated the 1.6 based on the share of urban travel by car, motorcycle, truck, and bus from table VM-1, using 1.55 for short wheelbase vehicles, 1.84 for long-wheelbase light-duty vehicles, 1 for motorcycles and heavy trucks and 11 for buses. There’s a slight bit of double counting as slightly less than 1/2 of a percent of urban vehicle miles is buses, and most of those are transit buses, but this won’t change the numbers much.

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2012 Natural Resources Inventory Update

A few weeks ago the Antiplanner posted information about the 2012 Natural Resources Inventory. The post noted that the published documents broke down the amount of developed land in the nation by “large urban and built up” (meaning more than 10 acres of development), “small built up” (meaning more than a quarter but less than 10 acres) and “rural transportation,” but did not include a state-by-state breakdown of these categories.

Since then, the Natural Resources Conservation Service was nice enough to send me a spreadsheet with the state-by-state breakdown (for every state except Alaska). There are no real surprises with it, but I’ve posted it here as may be useful to readers.

One caveat is that the Natural Resources Inventory is a sampling survey, so it is always worthwhile to present it in conjunction with 2010 census data on urbanized lands. The Census Bureau’s definition of “urban” is a little different than the one used in the Natural Resources Inventory, but the two numbers together confirm that, for most states, the vast majority of land remains undeveloped.

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Natural Resources Inventory

The pace of urbanization of rural lands has dramatically slowed, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s recently published 2012 Natural Resources Inventory. Between 1982 and 2002, the amount of developed land was growing faster than 2.5 percent per year, but the rate slowed to less than 1.5 percent per year after 2002 and less than 1 percent after 2007.


Click image to download the 2012 Natural Resources Inventory summary report (6.7-MB PDF).

Conducted every five years, the Natural Resources Inventory uses around a million sample points to estimate the uses of land throughout the United States. Although the inventory includes Alaska, Hawaii, and island territories, for some reason NRCS publishes the data for these in separate reports which are not yet available for 2012. However, the contiguous 48 states represent the bulk of America’s most productive farms and forests, so the new report provides a good indication of their status.

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2014 Transit Data

In mid-December, the Federal Transit Administration posted 2014 transit data on line, then withdrew it–but not before the Antiplanner was able to download most of the data tables. Two tables that were not available then were “Service” (including such things as vehicle revenue miles, passenger miles, and average daily trips) and “Vehicle Inventory” (including the number of vehicles and number of seats and standing room per vehicle).

The FTA has reposted all of the tables, including the two tables that were previously missing. Those two tables are dated today, so I appear to have downloaded them almost as soon as they were posted. Most of the other tables date to mid-December, so it is likely that few changes or corrections were made since then.

I’ve added the new data to my master spreadsheet and posted it for your convenience. This takes the information I consider the most important, including costs, ridership, fares, and energy consumption, from eight different spreadsheets and puts them in one spreadsheet.

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