Where we are today: Five-year trend from 2005 to 2010 shows less commuting by car

New Census data for 2010 show a gradual trend toward less commuting by car and truck, and more by transit, walking and biking.

In the nation as a whole, driving to work edged down to 90.2 percent from 90.9 percent five years earlier.

Transit rose to 4.9 percent from 4.7 percent, while ped-bike modes together rose to 3.3 percent from 3.0 percent.

Eight of the top 10 car-commuting states in 2010 were Southern, led by Alabama at 97.3 percent. The lowest levels of car-commuting were in New York (63.8 percent) and the District of Columbia (42.9 percent).

DC and New York also had the highest transit commuting, at 40.3 percent and 27.8 percent respectively. Alabama and Mississippi had the lowest levels, both at 0.4 percent.

DC and Oregon were tops in bike commuting, at 3.3 percent and 2.4 percent; five states – Tennessee, West Virginia, Alabama, Mississippi and Arkansas – had the lowest levels, 0.1 percent.

DC and Alaska had the highest levels of pedestrian commuting, at 12.4 percent and 8.3 percent. Tennessee was lowest, at 1.3 percent.

The figures, calculated from the Census Bureau’s annual American Community Survey, include only workers who traveled to reach their workplaces.

Home-based workers accounted for 4.3 percent in 2010, up from 3.6 percent five years earlier. Including “work at home” as a commuting mode, the trend toward reduced driving was more pronounced – 86.3 percent in 2010, down from 87.7 percent in 2005.

Some of the most interesting trends in the data are at the local level. For example, some cities that have invested in bicycle infrastructure are seeing big jumps in that mode:

  • Portland, Ore.: Up 80 percent in five years, to 6.5 percent of commuters who traveled.
  • Madison, Wis.: Up 55 percent, to 6.2 percent.
  • Seattle: Up 61 percent, to 3.9 percent.
  • San Francisco, up 97 percent, to 3.8 percent.
  • Minneapolis, up 48 percent, to 3.7 percent.
  • Washington, up 81 percent, to 3.3 percent.
  • Tucson, Ariz., up 37 percent, to 3.1 percent.