2014 Commuting Data

In 1960, 12.1 percent of American workers went to work by transit, which was then largely privately owned. Despite (or because of) public takeover of almost every transit system in the country, transit’s share steadily declined to 4.7 percent in 2000. Then, in 2010, it crept up to 4.9 percent. The 2014 American Community Survey found that it has increased still further to 5.2 percent.

Since 2000, the increase in transit’s share has come at the expense of carpooling, which fell from 12.6 percent to 9.2 percent in 2014. Biking and walking also fell slightly from 3.4 to 3.3 percent. Driving alone, however, grew from 73.2 to 76.5 percent. So the increase in transit’s share did not translate to a reduction in the number of cars on the road. Indeed, using census carpool data and assuming that “5- or 6-person carpools” have an average of 5.5 people and “7-or-more-person carpools” have 7 people, there were 104.2 million cars commuting to work in 2000, 110.8 million in 2010, and 117.6 million in 2014.

One intriguing table (B08141) shows commuting data by the number of cars in the household. Nationally, about 4.5 percent of workers live in households with no cars. Of these, about 41.5 percent took transit to work, 20.4 percent drove alone, and 11.3 percent carpooled.

Here are some useful spreadsheets:

The numbers for the nation at the bottom of the first and third spreadsheets include all commuters, not just those in urban areas.

As reported by the Census Bureau, margins of error are at the 90 percent confidence interval. In other words, if there are 100,000 commuters in a particular category and the margin of error is 1,000, then it is 90 percent likely that the actual number of commuters is between 99,000 and 101,000.

To simplify the tables I use, I deleted the margins of error. However, they are important when looking at smaller urban areas or less-used forms of commuting. The margin of error for, say, the number of people who drive to work nationwide is around a tenth of a percent. But the margin for some small category, such as the number of people who live in households with no vehicles and walk to work in Akron, Ohio is more than 50 percent. Any category that reports fewer than about 300 people has a margin of error close to if not greater than 100 percent.

This can lead to misleading results. The 2013 American Community Survey reported that about 5,700 workers in the Albuquerque urban area lived in households with no cars. This grew to 7,900 in 2014, which seems a large jump. Even more suspiciously, the share who drove alone to work shrank from 39.9 percent in 2013 to just 19.6 percent in 2014. I suspect this drastic change is more due to sampling error. Fortunately, the Census Bureau also reports five-year averages, which draw upon five times as much data and therefore are more reliable.


6 thoughts on “2014 Commuting Data

  1. metrosucks

    I wonder how many car hating planners who post here walk to work.

    Let me take care of that for you Frank…zero. But I wonder how many car hating planners who post here enjoy Sunday drives or heck, maybe even four-wheeling in the wilderness on the weekends?

  2. Frank

    Crickets, metrosucks, crickets.

    I was sure *someone* would object and attest to the fact that they walk to work. I mean, if you live in a city where the traffic is as effed up as it is in Seattle (due to planners’ lack of planning), then certainly walking is the *only* way to go!

    Jesus Christ, this city shuts down when the Chinese emperor shows up to buy some planes from the military industrial complex. My wife works only two miles away, and it’s taking her for-ev-er to get home.

    Thanks China and planners and central planners in China and central planners in America and central planners in Seattle! And planners who post their drivel here but live in suburbs and wage war on cars while driving cars and not walking to work!

  3. Sandy Teal

    Seriously, these commuter numbers on transit are TINY. A good carpool or slug line website could swamp the entire transit number in most cities, and thinking about it, that is very believable.

    Have you ever taken a bus? If you have to change busses, it is at least a half hour delay that you have to count on. Any light rail or not maximum time subway is also a half hour delay. Average delays don’t matter because you have to be on-time to work and to pick up kids.

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