2010 Census Data

Despite huge efforts to get people out of single-occupancy vehicles, nearly 8 million more people drove alone to work in 2010 than in 2000, according to data released by the Census Bureau. Wendell Cox’s review of the data show that the other big gainer was “worked at home,” which grew by nearly 2 million over the decade.

Transit gained less than a million, but transit numbers were so small in 2000 that its share grew from 4.6 percent to 4.9 percent of total workers. While drive alone grew from 75.6 percent to 76.5 percent, the big loser was carpooling, which declined by more than 2 million workers. As a result, driving’s share as a whole declined from 87.9 percent to 86.2 percent.

These numbers are based on a comparison of American Community Survey data for 2010 with census data for 2000. These data come from census “long” forms that ask such nosy questions as how many rooms are in your house, how much money you make, and how long it takes you to get to work. However, in 2000 the Census Bureau asked 43 million people to fill out a long form, while the 2010 American Community Survey reached little more than 10 percent of that number. This means the results may not be quite as accurate (though 4.47 million is still a huge sample), and at the moment the Census Bureau has released results only for counties and cities with more than 65,000 people.

The Antiplanner downloaded 2000 and 2010 data showing how people got to work by county. The 2000 data covered more than 3,200 counties while the 2010 data so far report only about 360 counties. But those are the counties with the most people and include about two-thirds of all the workers in the country. Numbers quoted below are based on these counties, but adding the less-populous counties of metropolitan areas should not change them much.

These numbers provide some indication of the success or failure of recent rail transit programs. Transit ridership suffered especially large losses in several major counties.

The number of people taking transit to work in Denver County, for example, declined by 20 percent even though jobs grew by 3.5 percent. Denver’s newest light-rail line goes from Denver to Arapahoe and Douglas counties, and these two counties enjoyed large percentage gains in ridership. But overall, transit in the Denver metro area lost more than 1,300 daily commuters despite the region gaining more than 60,000 new jobs. This suggests that Denver has neglected its bus lines to pay for its rail lines.

San Jose (Santa Clara County) is another big loser. Although the Silicon Valley county lost almost 4 percent of its jobs, transit commuting declined by a whopping 17 percent, or nearly 5,000 commuters. It is possible that the job losses hit low-income or other riders who might be more inclined to ride transit, but it is also true that the region’s transit agency was forced to make huge cuts in all of its transit services because declines in tax revenues combined with the high cost of rail transit put it close to bankruptcy.

Dallas and Houston (Harris County) also lost large numbers of transit riders. Dallas County lost nearly 8,000 transit commuters despite gaining more than 41,000 jobs. While Collin County, at the end of one of Dallas’ light-rail lines, gained 2,000 transit commuters, this and gains in other suburban counties doesn’t come close to making up for the loss in the central county. Similarly, Harris County lost 7,200 transit commuters despite gaining a whopping 335,000 new jobs. Again, transit’s tiny gains in suburban counties–none of which are served by light rail–failed to come close to making up for Harris County’s loss.

Baltimore lost almost 3,000 transit commuters despite gaining more than 6,000 new jobs. Atlanta gained more than 37,000 new jobs, virtually all of whom drive to work alone as transit commuting grew by a mere 377. Salt Lake County gained 41,000 new jobs but lost nearly 1,300 transit commuters.

Transit lost thousands of commuters in Chicago’s Cook, DuPage, Lake, and McHenry counties, which were only partly made up for by gains in Kane and Will counties. The biggest loss was in Cook County, which is mainly served by the Chicago Transit Authority, while the gains were in counties served by Metra commuter trains. At least some local residents believe that Chicago’s Regional Transit Authority, which oversees both the CTA and Metra, has been biased towards Metra because it mainly serves white suburbanites while CTA serves black inner-city residents.

Transit commuting in Portland, the city the Antiplanner loves to bash, grew by 1,900 out of 21,500 new commuters in the tri-county area (Clackamas, Multnomah, and Washington counties). Transit fell slightly in Clackamas County, which doesn’t yet have a light-rail line, but gained in Multnomah and Washington counties, which do have light rail. But transit’s gain can hardly be a major victory when bicycle commuters grew by more than 15,000 (80 percent in Multnomah County) and walking grew by more than 5,000 (80 percent in Washington County). Driving alone grew by 16,000 while carpooling declined by 17,000, suggesting that there were around 8,000 new commuter cars on the road at the end of the decade.

Transit did better in a few other light-rail counties. Transit gained a respectable 4,460 new commuters in Minneapolis (Hennepin County) despite a county-wide loss of more than 22,000 jobs. But transit also increased in most other Minneapolis-St. Paul counties even though light rail so far serves only Hennepin County. Transit also gained more than 5,000 new commuters in Maricopa County (Phoenix), but this is less impressive considering the county gained almost 200,000 new jobs.

An amazing number of people are daring enough to ride the Washington Metro system, as 2010 saw more than 113,000 new transit commuters out of about 320,000 new workers. Boston transit also did well, with the four core counties (Middlesex, Norfolk, Plymouth, and Suffolk) gaining 17,000 new transit commuters out of 26,000 new jobs. Transit also did very well in the New York metro area, where almost all new commuters rode transit.

Transit gained market share slightly in Los Angeles, Sacramento, and the San Francisco Bay Area, but lost slightly in San Diego. It gained in Ft. Lauderdale (Broward County) but lost in Miami-Dade County; gained a little in Charlotte, Nashville, Philadelphia, St. Louis, and Seattle but lost a little in Austin, Cleveland, and Pittsburgh.

On the other hand, transit managed to gain market share in a number of communities that lack rail transit, showing that buses alone can attract riders. Among other places, these include Mobile and Montgomery, AL; Gainesville and Tampa, FL; Honolulu; Greensboro, NC; Tulsa; Provo; and Virginia Beach. Many of these cities have plans to build rail transit; the Antiplanner predicts that, if they do, most will lose transit commuters as the high cost of rail transit forces cutbacks in bus service.

The 2010 data offer rail transit supporters little to be proud of. Transit did best in dense, older cities such as Boston, New York, and Washington (but not Chicago), and transit did okay in a few new rail cities such as Minneapolis and Phoenix. But declines in transit commuting in Baltimore, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Salt Lake, and San Jose and transit’s loss of market share in Atlanta, Portland, and a few other regions can be at least partly blamed on the high cost of rail transit and resulting cutbacks in bus service. The only good thing that can be said about Portland is that transit’s loss of market share was to cycling and walking, not to driving; all those billions spent on light rail haven’t gotten many people out of their cars.

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19 thoughts on “2010 Census Data

  1. LazyReader

    Overall, it’s not that difficult to fathom, it’s a shame that carpooling has suffered this blowback. But if you think about it, what is transit in general other than very expensive, complicated, government coordinated, carpooling. Despite all the effort to reduce traffic and encourage carpooling, some studies have shown that a HOV lane moves nearly as many people per hour than a standard highway lane, using only slightly fewer cars. In Australia, they call them transit lanes………Transit lanes are said to be abused by drivers in that they are rarely used by cars with two or more passengers. Creation of space for Transit Lanes on an existing road may involve removal of a shoulder or bike lane that was set aside for use by cyclists. Another thing is the array of loopholes certain people get for certain cars. People who drive hybrids, plug-in hybrids, CNG powered cars and vehicles state certified as identified clean air vehicles that are allowed to use HOVs regardless of the number of passengers, so you have thousands of single occupancy passengers who receive a un-congested ride due to buying a fancy new car. How is that fair. A number of cities are considering ditching HOV lanes altogether in favor of HOT lanes.

  2. Close Observer

    Wonders how much change is the result of in- and out-migration due to self-selection? Portland has developed a rep as the alternative-to-auto city, so over the past decade have people moved there who want that lifestyle versus people already living there who “converted” to transit, bike, or walking.

    Any good guesses?

  3. C. P. Zilliacus

    LazyReader wrote:

    Overall, it’s not that difficult to fathom, it’s a shame that carpooling has suffered this blowback. But if you think about it, what is transit in general other than very expensive, complicated, government coordinated, carpooling.

    Car-pooling (and van-pooling) does not require:

    Expensive (and sometimes militant) unionized labor;
    Expensive rail systems (including stations, signal systems, transit police, track walkers, (usually) electrical systems and more);
    Transit-oriented land use; and
    Massive capital and operating subsidies.

    Despite all the effort to reduce traffic and encourage carpooling, some studies have shown that a HOV lane moves nearly as many people per hour than a standard highway lane, using only slightly fewer cars.

    Sometimes more – many more persons per lane – as in the Shirley Highway (I-95/I-395 HOV lanes) and the Lincoln Tunnel bus contraflow lane in North Jersey headed to Manhattan

    In Australia, they call them transit lanes………Transit lanes are said to be abused by drivers in that they are rarely used by cars with two or more passengers.

    That’s why we have police to enforce such rules.

    Creation of space for Transit Lanes on an existing road may involve removal of a shoulder or bike lane that was set aside for use by cyclists. Another thing is the array of loopholes certain people get for certain cars. People who drive hybrids, plug-in hybrids, CNG powered cars and vehicles state certified as identified clean air vehicles that are allowed to use HOVs regardless of the number of passengers, so you have thousands of single occupancy passengers who receive a un-congested ride due to buying a fancy new car. How is that fair.

    I don’t believe it is fair. The original intent behind exemptions for certain types of vehicles was to improve air quality. But conventional vehicles have gotten so much cleaner (in terms of tailpipe emissions) thanks to successful government mandates that it make little sense (in my opinion) to continue to grant such exemptions – California has ended its exemptions for hybrid and low-emission vehicles and Virginia has frozen the number of exempt vehicles allowed in its HOV lanes.

    A number of cities are considering ditching HOV lanes altogether in favor of HOT lanes.

    Georgia recently did just that on I-85, though the transition has had some problems, as reported by Peter Samuel:

    GA/I-85 Express Lanes’ wild start – tolls too high, lanes near empty, Governor steps in

    GA/I-85 toll express lanes do better in 2nd week – but not peachy yet

  4. C. P. Zilliacus

    The Antiplanner wrote:

    The Antiplanner downloaded 2000 and 2010 data showing how people got to work by county. The 2000 data covered more than 3,200 counties while the 2010 data so far report only about 360 counties. But those are the counties with the most people and include about two-thirds of all the workers in the country.

    In my opinion, this is why the so-called “long” Census form is so vital, regardless of the hysteria that was spun-up by Republic Party politicians in Washington, D.C. in 2000.

  5. tthomas48

    I stopped because my transit options became more limited. The cost of installing a boondoggle commuter rail system that isn’t well ridden meant that a lot of bus routes in town were cut including the one through my neighborhood. Pursuing commuters rather than current riders seems to be in vogue, but doesn’t seem to lead to good ridership levels. Bird in the hand and all that I guess…

  6. Sandy Teal

    1. I agree with CPZ that the Census long form is a great value. They do it every year, instead of an intense decadal effort, and it provides basic data that is essential to good government. This is far better than making government decisions based upon interest group sponsored surveys that are thrown around in the press.

    2. Car pooling is such a win-win-win solution that it is actually worth government funding to facilitate. Letting hybrids and other politically correct vehicles in the HOV lanes is just left wing ideology gone amok, subsidized by EPA’s bizarre application of the Clean Air Act. Just the existence of hybrid SUVs shows the market distortion that allows auto companies to capture the profit from OHV lanes, while screwing the highway congestion and the environment.

  7. LazyReader

    You don’t need an immense government presence to incorporate carpooling. Carpooling only works to the extent of which a group of people have the same destination. Slugging may be popular in the D.C. area but overall no one want’s to ride with a stranger. Almost every major city has gypsy cabs that serve cheap fares to working class immigrants, the poor, college students and the elderly. Illegal taxicab operation is generally seen as a victimless crime although it may affect the economic value of licensed taxis. There is a lack of licensed taxis in working class neighborhoods, due to the perception, by cab drivers, of safety issues or that better tips can be had in wealthier neighborhoods. Licensed taxis don’t leave the Central Business District, except to go to airports to drop off or pick up customers, which are easy and guaranteed income. In Baltimore, MD, supermarkets in working class neighborhoods frequently have “courtesy drivers” who, although not employed by the supermarket, have shown identification to management and are allowed to wait in front of the store for fares. Unlike licensed cab drivers, these courtesy drivers will also help to carry groceries. Maybe some regulation can lead to safe competitive cabs or vans to transport people regardless of location.

  8. Andrew

    Carpooling has been in terminal decline for decades. The heydey of carpooling was probably the 1960′s, along with hitchiking. Wasn’t that when Blondie started being written in the comics with Dagwood and his daily carpool?

    Anti-transit folks can fantasize about carpooling coming back, but that fact is, American’s for the most part don’t want to ride to work with their coworkers in their personal car, and think carpooling makes you look cheap and/or poor. They also want to run errands before and after work, or pick up or drop off kids, and too many people who work together no longer live near each other.

    I say this as someone who carpooled in the 1990′s for one year in suburban New Jersey and one year in suburban Boston with different coworkers.

  9. Craigh

    In my opinion, this is why the so-called “long” Census form is so vital, regardless of the hysteria that was spun-up by Republic Party politicians in Washington, D.C. in 2000.

    Yes, because statistical projections aren’t as accurate as was claimed by Democratic party politicians in Washington, D.C. in 2000 when they wanted to use them to estimate the homeless and minority population.

  10. C. P. Zilliacus

    LazyReader wrote:

    You don’t need an immense government presence to incorporate carpooling.

    Absolutely correct. If government or non-government provides restricted lanes with substantial savings of time, then people will likely use it.

    Carpooling only works to the extent of which a group of people have the same destination.

    That is correct. Though do not forget “fam-pools” which frequently use HOV-2 facilities.

    Slugging may be popular in the D.C. area but overall no one want’s to ride with a stranger.

    I disagree. Slugging works in the I-95/I-395 (Shirley Highway) corridor because the HOV roadway is HOV-3, so each body snatcher (as drivers are called) must pick up two slugs (riders).

    It also helps that buses serve many of the park-and-ride lots, which serve as a “backup” to the informal car-pooling (and the buses run later than the HOV-3 restriction in case people need to work late).

  11. Matt Young

    I wish a better survey, a time use survey for the car, like a journal. The car today, is used with much better planning and its casual use declining. I suspect the car has its greatest gain from getting a person to work, and the percentage use of the car for commute is way up relative to its use for shopping or travel. I also think the people working at home has a spread, there are a lot of people who skip a commute day once a week for work at home.

    No, the key is to get surveys that people fill out about their transportation usage, day to day.

  12. C. P. Zilliacus

    Craigh wrote:

    Yes, because statistical projections aren’t as accurate as was claimed by Democratic party politicians in Washington, D.C. in 2000 when they wanted to use them to estimate the homeless and minority population.

    Minority and homeless populations have to get counted regardless, and any controversy associated with those was separate from the spun-up hysteria by the Republic Party’s Washington apparat, which claimed that “Long” Form Census data was some sort of invasion of privacy. It wasn’t and it isn’t, at least not for 70 years (after 70 years, data are available to the public).

  13. C. P. Zilliacus

    Matt Young wrote:

    I wish a better survey, a time use survey for the car, like a journal. The car today, is used with much better planning and its casual use declining. I suspect the car has its greatest gain from getting a person to work, and the percentage use of the car for commute is way up relative to its use for shopping or travel. I also think the people working at home has a spread, there are a lot of people who skip a commute day once a week for work at home.

    Working at home has grown from nothing to a substantial number thanks in part to broadband at home.

    No, the key is to get surveys that people fill out about their transportation usage, day to day.

    Much of such data can be collected (with permission of the owner of the vehicle) by automated means with a GPS unit.

  14. metrosucks

    HOV lanes are a crock, at least on the West Coast. Think about it. You have a highway lane, paid for by all drivers, yet due to vague and arbitrary reasoning by Our Masters, only those who have one (or two) passengers are deemed worthy of using it. It’s a way-worse rip-off than light rail. At least anyone can buy a light rail ticket and use it. It’s simply another way to wage war against that Devil’s Curse, single occupancy vehicles. That, and a way to get all that “free federal money” to build some of the system.

    The Seattle area, where I currently live, has one of the most built-out and advanced HOV systems I’ve ever seen. Most of the time, these lanes are mostly empty, while traffics stalls and thickens in the adjacent lanes. There are even HOV lanes on the freeway ramps, and HOV traffic is allowed to bypass almost all ramp meters, which is either a blatant social engineering spectacle, or a tacit acknowledgement that actual HOV usage is low enough that it wouldn’t matter either way. The HOV system is confusing, wasteful, and insulting to single-occupancy drivers, who have all paid into the lanes, but are arbitrarily prevented from using them.

  15. metrosucks

    For an example of the mentality of government officials, and their love affair with HOV, Kelowna, a town of approximately 110,000 people, in the Okanagan valley in BC, installed a short HOV lane, on the outside of the highway, a couple years ago. Putting disruptive HOV lanes on the outside is standard practice in Seattle, too (one freeway and multiple roadways are striped this way). Anyone believe this lane actually makes any difference, except to aggravate and annoy drivers?

    What’s next? A HOV lane in a hamlet of 600 people? Local government will build anything as long as there’s the “free money” to do it, and limousine liberals can feel good about their self-righteous excuses for said action.

    http://bcblue.wordpress.com/2009/10/30/kelownas-new-hov-lanes-are-a-joke/

  16. transitboy

    Part of the problem with the Census is that, if I remember correctly (I’ve filled out the ACS before), it asked me how I PRIMARILY got to work. If I drove for 3 days, carpooled one day, and took transit one day, then I would have to answer SOV – despite the fact that I also used the other modes as well. For this reason I believe that the ACS underestimates transit commute share.

    Certainly the cutting of bus service in order to pay for rail lines is extremely disturbing. Case in point: on one section of their website, Denver RTD is describing draconian bus service cuts, while on the other section, they are urging support for a tax increase to complete their rail construction program (ironically, their existing rail service is being cut as well). Why would anyone in Denver vote to increase their taxes to pay for new rail lines when the RTD can’t afford to operate what they currently have?

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