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How Commuting Has Changed

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Cheryl Russell, American Consumers Newsletter

Americans are moving to the cities. Bicycling is growing in popularity. Working at home is increasingly common. These seemingly big trends have made only small cracks in the well-paved journey to work, long dominated by solo trips in automobiles. According to the Census Bureau'sAmerican Community Survey, this is how we got to work in 2016...

76.3% drove alone in a car, truck, or van: While the 76.3% figure of 2016 is slightly below the all-time high of 76.6% in 2015 (and 2010), it is slightly above the 76.0% of 2006. The percentage of workers who drive alone to work has bobbled within a few tenths of 76% for more than 10 years. During the past decade, no other mode of transportation to work has gained more adherents. The number of workers who drive to work alone expanded by nearly 10 million between 2006 and 2016, a 9% increase.

9.0% carpooled: The percentage of workers who carpool was a larger10.7% in 2006.

5.1% used public transportation: The percentage of workers who took public transportation to work in 2016 was greater than the 4.8% of 2006. But buses accounted for a shrinking share of commuters (2.5%, down from 2.7% in 2006). More commuting on trains, streetcars, ferries, and especially subways, made up the difference.

5.0% worked at home: In 2006, a smaller3.9% worked from home.

2.7% walked to work: This was smaller than the 2.9% who walked to work in 2006.

0.6% bicycled to work: The number of people who bicycle to work climbed 39% between 2006 and 2016. But the percentage who bicycle rose from only 0.5 to 0.6%.

1.2% used "other" means to get to work: This catch-all category includes taxis, motorcycles, and other means of transportation (skateboards, maybe?). The percentage using "other" was stable between 2006 and 2016, despite the rise of Uber, Lyft, and other ride-sharing services.

The Boomer Love Affair with Cars

No segment of the population is as devoted to the automobile as the Baby-boom generation. Boomers were born into a world of one-car families. By the time they were old enough to drive, second cars were becoming common and Boomers took the wheel, radios blasting. More than 1,500 songs about cars were recorded between 1961 and 1965, reports Wikipedia.

Youth culture and car culture were one.

Boomers are no longer young, but their devotion to cars continues. The average Boomer household is home to more cars (2.3) than people (2.0), according to an AARP survey. The survey explores Boomer attitudes toward cars as they approach the age when their children will wonder whether they should take Daddy's car keys away. That won't be easy.

“Independence” is one of the top words Boomers use to describe their feelings about driving, with 78% saying their vehicle is the key to their independence. That may be why fully 57% of Boomers say they will never stop driving. Three out of four Boomers say their vehicle brings them happiness.

It's not that Boomers are completely averse to changes in how they get from here to there. But only 20% have ever used ride-sharing services. When asked to describe their ideal vehicle, 78% would make it a standard rather than a driverless vehicle because they love to drive. And kids, don't try arguing with your Boomer parents about how their driving skills aren't what they used to be. Eighty percent of Boomers say they are better drivers than most people they know.

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