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New Commuting Data from Census ACS Data

The American Community Survey data on vehicle ownership and commuting mode choice were released last month by the U.S. Census Bureau. The headline finding was that the fraction of those working mostly at home nationwide—5.2%—now exceeds the national average for those commuting by transit—5.0%. This has been true of a growing number of medium and large metro areas for quite a few years, but this is the first time it’s been reported on a national average basis.
Comparing commuting modes over time reveals considerable stability in most of the mode shares. Consider the changes between 2005 and the new 2017 numbers:

The “other” category includes taxi and ride-hail companies, and although the latter have displaced a lot of taxi service, the national average for that whole category is still not much more than 1%.
The largest group of people now in the active workforce is the Millennial generation. They were supposed to be giving up car ownership and getting around by walking, biking, transit, and ride-hailing. But it’s difficult to see much evidence of those alleged trends in the overall statistics (though figures for individual cities may show different patterns).
The other fascinating feature in the new ACS data is the stability in vehicle ownership, albeit with a slight rise in the fraction of multi-vehicle households and a resumption in the trend (post-recession) of an ever-smaller number of zero-car households (from a high of 9.3% in 2012 to 8.6% in 2017. Three-vehicle households have increased from 19.8% in 2005 to 21.5% in 2017, with two-vehicle households decreasing slightly from 38.2% in 2005 to 37.1% in 2017. So far, at least, the United States is still a car-owning society.
(This article first ran in the October issue of Surface Transportation Innovations.)
(This article first ran in the October issue of Surface Transportation Innovations.)
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