Driving Alone: Census data show Americans are not giving up the car

driving in the rain
CC BY 2.0 Wikipedia/ Driving alone in the rain

Sometimes it feels like you are just banging your head against the wall. Seriously, years of activists and writers and TreeHuggers promoting cycling and walking and transit and then the new census data come out and we find that the needle has barely moved. Cycling remains barely a rounding error. Richard Florida munches the numbers on Citylab:

how we get aroundUS Census/Public Domain

It’s also clear that the way we get to work varies widely based on where we live. Workers who live in larger, dense cities with better mass transit systems drive less than those in suburbs. Urban workers (those living in principal cities within a metro area) in 2013 were significantly less likely to commute by car (78 percent) than those living outside principal city metros (89 percent), or elsewhere (91 percent). Workers in principal cities also registered the largest decline in automobile commuting—from 80 per­cent to 78 percent between 2006 and 2013 (though, at 2 percent, that decline was still relatively small).

commuting changesUS Census/Public Domain

Unfortunately in North America most people don't have much of a choice about how they get around; the whole country is pretty much designed around the car. Even in New York City, 56.9% of workers are commuting by car, because of course, not everyone works in Manhattan. Florida concludes:

These findings are of course not just the product of individual choices but also the result of the deep economic and social structures and public policies that have shaped our car-oriented landscape. Social scientists like Harvard’s Robert Putnam have long warned us of the negative consequences of “bowling alone” (our declining participation in civic institutions and withering social ties). Perhaps we should be even more concerned with our continued tendency to drive alone. After all, study after study has shown how incredibly damaging commuting by ourselves is to our physical, mental, and social health.

I wonder how our TreeHugger demographic gets around.

Tags: Transportation | Urban Life | Urban Planning


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