Monday, May 12, 2008

American Commuting Patterns and Travel Trends

An excerpt from the Transportation Research Forum.

Alan E. Pisarski, Author of Commuting in America III
Feb. 13, 2008

Alan Pisarski's remarks were based in large part on the third edition of this book Commuting in America III, published in 2006. People travel on the earth's surface for many reasons – to get to work, go on vacation, transport freight, and provide private and government services (power, water, police protection, etc.). Commuting is a shrinking part of surface transportation. Daily trips to work have not increased per capita since 1975, while family/personal business trips have doubled and school/church trips have increased.

Three major trends will define future commuting.

Replacing the baby boomers in the workforce – Where will the workforce come from?
Continued expansion of metro areas – the doughnut metro with the focus on the suburbs
An affluent time-focused society – we value our time at $50 an hour and the value of goods moved triples.
Mr. Pisarki's listed his "Top 10" factors that will shape commuting:

#10 – Single-occupancy vehicle travel growth slows: It's currently about 80%, but trend-setting metro areas such as Seattle, San Francisco, Portland, Phoenix, and Atlanta have shown drops in single-occupancy vehicle travel

#9 – Regional swings in carpooling and transit use from 1990 to 2000: Carpooling dropped dramatically in the Northeast, but grew by a large margin in the West. Transit use declined slightly in three regions, but increased in the West.

#8 – The growth of automobile ownership among African-Americans: From 1990 to 2006 the percent of African-Americans owning automobiles rose from 70 percent to 80 percent

#7 – Immigrant roles and patterns: Immigrants make up only 14 percent of workers, but have an impact on certain commuting modes. Carpooling is popular with immigrant communities, but drops off the longer they live in the United States. They are also more likely to use mass transit.

#6 – Older workers: while the percent of people over 55 who are still working is going up, many work from home. After 55 more people start taking alternatives to single-occupancy vehicles.

#5 – Increases in extreme commutes (longer than 60 minutes): In 2005 10 million people took longer than 60 minutes to get to work. Major population center states such as New York, New Jersey, and California ranked in the top 10 in longest average commute, but West Virginia, Louisiana, and Mississippi were also in the top 10.

#4 – The "donut" metro: The largest job growth has been in the suburbs. The largest percent of commutes are within suburbs. In addition 7.5 million people commute to the suburbs both from central cities and another 7.5 million from rural areas and exurbs to the suburbs.

#3 – Continuing growth of working at home: This is one of only two "modes" of commuting (the other being driving alone) that has shown continuous growth since 1980. Today working at home includes 4 percent of workers.

#2 – Workers out before 6 a.m.: The rush hour spreads out as a larger percent of people start from home before 6 a.m., and the percent that commute between 6 and 9 a.m. shrinks.

#1 – Increase in workers leaving their home county to work: More than one-fourth of worker now leave their home county for work. The Washington, DC, metropolitan area leads the nation in this trend.

In response to a question, Mr. Pisarski said that there are huge forces working against mass transit growth: the spreading out of the population away from central cities, increasing wealth, aging population, and continued preference for automobiles.

No comments: