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June 14, 2007

« Results on Innovation: US vs. EU | Main | Blame the Workers »

For this week’s "By the Numbers," we take a spin off of a U.S. Census press release from yesterday that highlights how Americans commute to work.    The Census found:

“Driving to work was the favored means of commute of nearly nine out of 10 workers (87.7 percent), with most people (77 percent) driving alone.  In contrast, 4.7 percent of commuters used public transportation to travel to work in 2005, an increase of about 0.1 percent over 2000 levels.”

In the press release, the Census also presents interesting data about which U.S. cities had the highest percentage workers taking public transportation, biking and walking to work and telecommuters.   The Census used the principle city as the unit of measurement.   

You can see the full Census press release and download principle city results here.

To compliment the work of the Census, we decided to look at which METRO REGIONS had the highest percentage of workers taking public transportation, biking, and walking to work and telecommuters.   

Here are the top three metro regions for each:

Public Transportation: Top 3 Metros

1. New York, NY - 29.7% (of workers)
2. San Francisco, CA - 13.7%
3. Washington, DC - 13.2%

Biking to Work: Top 3 Metros

1. Eugene, OR - 4.7%
2. Iowa City, IA - 2.9%
3. Santa Barbara, CA - 2.5%

Walking to Work: Top 3 Metros

1. Iowa City, IA - 5.9%
2. New York, NY - 5.7%
3. Madison, WI - 4.5%

Telecommuting: Top 3 Metros

1. Santa Cruz, CA - 8.4%
2. Hilo, HI - 8.3%
3. Santa Fe, NM - 6.5%

You can download the top 10 metros for each here. Download CCG_MetroCommuting.pdf

posted by: Steven


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Isn't it rather obvious that New York, San Fran and Wash DC will have the highest percent of workers using public transportation? Let's see--#4 is Chicago, #5 is Boston?

What is more interesting to examine are cities with similar transit systems and those numbers. Leave New York alone since it will never be replicated in the US. Boston and Chicago (pre WWII transit systems). Wash DC and Atlanta (post WWII transit systems).

Michael Wells

World War II is one marker. On the West Coast, I'd say 1970 is the key date. Seattle #8, Portland # 10 and LA # 14 are key examples.

In 1969 Portland's old private Rose City Transit was on the verge of bankruptcy and the city/region was entirely car culture. Rose City was taken over by a new public agency, Tri-Met. When citizen opposition stopped the proposed Mt Hood Freeway from tearing through miles of neighborhoods, the funding was transferred to create the downtown bus mall and the first part of the MAX light rail system. Portland's adoption of mass transit has been astounding. The same story essentially happened in Seattle and LA.

NYC, Boston and San Francisco were built in horse and buggy days and have had strong public transit since way before WWII. I've lived in all three without owning a car and gotten along well -- as do many of their present day residents. Having a car can actually be a hassle and the subway is often faster than driving.

By contrast Portland, Seattle and LA had all destroyed their public transit systems after WWII and become entirely auto dependent. Their infrastructures are more spread out and auto oriented. For them to be in the top 20 today is amazing.

Michael R. Bernstein

I'd be interested in seeing a top-ten list for all forms of non-car transportation combined.

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