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Chapter 1. NATIONAL SUMMARY

This chapter of the report presents a national overview of the decennial data on demographic and commuting characteristics of the American public. The national picture not only allows comparison of individual metro areas with the country as a whole, but also with broad strokes paints a clear picture of changes commuters in America have adapted to over the last forty years. Exhibit 1.1 shows the journey-to-work data from the 1960, 1970, 1980, 1990 and 2000 decennial census for the nation as a whole.

Population

The U.S. population grew at an unexpected pace between 1990 and 2000, adding 32.7 million people (13.2 percent) over the ten- year period. This represents the largest numerical increase in population in any decade in American history. The previous record was the 28 million added between 1950 and 1960 at the apex of the baby boom.Exhibit 1.2 shows added population by decade starting from 1950.

Exhibit 1.2 Added Population per Decade (millions): 1960-2000

Exhibit 1.2 Added Population per Decade (millions): 1960-2000

Exhibit 1.1 National Summary Statistics: 1960-2000

DATA ITEM19601970198019902000Percent Change
1960-701970-801980-901990-20001960-2000
POPULATION
Total179,323,175 203,211,926 226,545,805 248,709,873 281,421,906 13.311.59.813.256.9
Number of Households53,022,121 63,444,750 80,389,673 91,993,582 105,539,122 19.726.714.414.799.0
Persons per Household3.33 3.11 2.75 2.63 2.59 -6.6-11.6-4.4-1.5-22.2
Persons per Vehicle3.27 2.57 1.75 1.63 1.58 -21.4-32.1-6.5-3.3-51.8
Households per Vehicle0.97 0.80 0.62 0.60 0.59 -17.0-22.8-2.6-2.0-38.9
Urban Population (1)125,268,750 149,646,029 167,050,992 187,051,543 222,360,539 19.511.612.018.977.5
Rural Population (1)54,054,525 53,565,297 59,494,813 61,658,330 59,061,367 -0.911.13.6-4.29.3
Percent Urban69.86%73.64%73.74%75.21%79.01%     
WORKERS
Total64,655,805 76,852,389 96,617,296 115,070,274 128,279,228 18.925.719.111.598.4
Workers as Percent of Population36.06%37.82%42.65%46.27%45.58%     
Worked in County of Residence55,254,625 62,065,319 76,564,160 87,587,677 94,042,863 12.323.414.47.470.2
Worked Outside County of Residence9,401,180 14,784,070 20,108,023 27,482,597 34,236,365 57.336.036.724.6264.2
Workers per Household1.22 1.21 1.20 1.25 1.22 -0.7-0.84.1-2.8-0.3
Workers per Vehicle1.18 0.97 0.74 0.76 0.72 -17.6-23.51.4-4.8-39.1
COMMUTING
Mean Travel Time to Work  21.7 22.4 25.5   3.213.8na
Private Vehicle (2)41,368,062 59,722,550 81,258,496 99,592,932 112,736,101 44.134.022.013.2172.5
% Private Vehicle69.5%80.6%85.9%88.0%87.9%     
Public Transit (3)7,806,932 6,810,458 6,175,061 6,069,589 6,067,703 -16.6-7.8-2.00.0-22.3
% Transit12.6%8.5%6.2%5.1%4.7%     
Walked to Work6,416,343 5,689,819 5,413,248 4,488,886 3,758,982 -11.3-4.9-17.1-16.3-41.4
% Walked10.4%7.4%5.6%3.9%2.9%     
Other4,401,7181,944,4181,590,6281,512,8421,532,219-28.6-24.3-30.41.3-65.2
% Other6.8%2.5%1.6%1.3%1.2%     
Worked at Home4,662,750 2,685,144 2,179,863 3,406,025 4,184,223-42.4-18.856.222.8-10.3
% Worked At Home7.5%3.5%2.3%3.0%3.3%     
VEHICLES (4)
Total Household Vehicles (4)54,766,718 79,002,052 129,747,911 152,380,479 178,344,236 44.364.217.417.0225.6
Vehicles per Household1.03 1.25 1.61 1.66 1.69 20.629.62.62.063.6
Vehicles per Person0.31 0.39 0.57 0.61 0.63 27.347.37.03.4107.5
Vehicles per Worker0.85 1.03 1.34 1.32 1.39 21.430.6-1.45.064.1
Households with 0 Vehicles11,416,835 11,081,394 10,390,307 10,602,297 10,861,067 -2.9-6.22.02.4-4.9
% with 0 Vehicles21.53%17.47%12.92%11.53%10.29%     
Households with 1 Vehicle30,189,103 30,268,323 28,564,622 31,038,711 36,123,613 0.3-5.68.716.419.7
% with 1 Vehicle56.94%47.71%35.53%33.74%34.23%     
Households with 2 Vehicles10,073,684 18,599,907 27,347,235 34,361,045 40,461,920 84.647.025.617.8301.7
% with 2 Vehicles19.00%29.32%34.02%37.35%38.34%     
Households with 3+ Vehicles1,342,499 3,495,126 14,087,509 15,945,357 18,033,501 160.3303.113.213.11243.3
% with 3+ Vehicles2.53%5.51%17.52%17.33%17.09%     

(1) Urban and Rural definitions for 2000 based on 2000 definition of urbanized areas and clusters.

(2) Includes cars, trucks, and vans.

(3) Public Transit includes bus, streetcar, subway, railroad, ferryboat, and taxicab.

(4) Vehicles include automobile only for 1960 and 1970. For 1980 and 1990, Vehicles include cars, vans, and trucks of one ton capacity or less.

The Western region of the country grew fastest, adding 10 million people to the 53 million residents. The Southern region added 15 million and now is home to over 100 million of the country's people, 35.6 percent of the U.S. population, resides in the South. The Northeast grew by just 5.5 percent, and the Midwest added 7.9 percent to its population (see Exhibit 1.3).

Exhibit 1.3 Added Population by Region of the Country: 1990-2000

Region1990 Population2000 PopulationAdded PopulationPercent Change
U.S. Total248,709,873281,421,90637,712,03313.20%
Northeast50,809,22953,594,3782,785,1495.50%
Midwest59,668,63264,392,7764,724,1447.90%
South85,445,930100,236,82014,790,89017.30%
West52,786,08263,197,93210,411,85019.70%

Every state experienced some population growth in the last decade--the first time in the 20th century that this happened. The growth was not evenly distributed; growth rates ranged from 66 percent increase in population in Nevada to less than 1 percent in North Dakota.

Some states that exhibited very high population growth rates between 1980 and 1990 seem to be slowing down; although California added over 4 million people to its population it grew by only 14 percent compared to 26 percent in the 1980s. Florida grew by a whopping 24 percent in the last decade, but that looks like a slowing trend compared to the 33 percent growth in population in Florida in the 80s.

On the other hand, some states have surfaced as new population magnets, such as Arizona, Colorado, Georgia and Washington, which each added over one million residents in the 90s. The eleven fastest growing states together add 14 million people, nearly 42 percent of the total added population in the country as a whole. Nevada has had the fastest growth rate for each of the previous four decades (see Exhibit 1.4).

Exhibit 1.4 Fastest Growing States: 1990 - 2000

State1990 Population2000 PopulationAdded PopulationPercent Change
Nevada1,201,8331,998,257796,42466.30%
Arizona3,665,2285,130,6321,465,40440.00%
Colorado3,294,3944,301,2611,006,86730.60%
Utah1,722,8502,233,169510,31929.60%
Idaho1,006,7491,293,953287,20428.50%
Georgia6,478,2168,186,4531,708,23726.40%
Florida12,937,92615,982,3783,044,45223.50%
Texas16,986,51020,851,8203,865,31022.80%
Washington4,866,6925,894,1211,027,42921.10%
Oregon2,842,3213,421,399579,07820.40%
New Mexico1,515,0691,819,046303,97720.10%

A national trend toward greater urbanization continued in the 1990s with over 80 percent of the population living in metropolitan areas, and almost three-fifths of the population of the country lives in a major metro area, an area with one million or more people. The total population within all metropolitan areas increased by 14 percent compared to 10 percent population growth in non- metropolitan areas. In 1960, there were only 34 metropolitan areas of 1 million or more; in 2000, there are 49 large metropolitan areas in the U.S. (San Juan, Puerto Rico is a metro area over one million, but is not included in this analysis).

Workers

In 1960, 65 million people were counted as workers in the Census, by the year 2000 that number nearly doubled to 128 million workers. Over 45 percent of the people in the U.S. are workers-reflecting the large population segment (baby boomers) now in their working years, and especially the high participation of women in the workforce.

The large additions to the U.S. workforce seen every decade since 1960 may be near an end as the baby boomers move through their working years and into retirement.Whereas the 33 million people were added to the population total for the country in the last decade, only 13.2 million workers were added-one worker added for every 2.5 added people. This certainly reverses a trend since in the previous forty years (since 1960) the U.S. added nearly 64 million workers, or 1.2 added workers for every added person (see Exhibit 1.5).

Exhibit 1.5 Added Number of Workers per Decade (Millions): 1960-2000

Exhibit 1-5: The large additions to the U.S. workforce seen every decade since 1960 may be near an end as the baby boomers move through their working years and into retirement.

The number of workers in the U.S. has doubled since 1960. Nearly every worker is a commuter. In 1960, 43 million workers commuted by private vehicle, compared to 97 million workers commuting by private vehicle in the year 2000. Households have also declined in size, but over the last forty years the average number of workers per household remained close to the same, about 1.2 workers per household. The growth in percent of workers kept pace with population growth in most areas-16 metro areas added 20 percent to their populations and 12 of those metro areas added 20 percent to their worker count.

From the longer vantage point of history, the entrance of large numbers of women into the workforce in the 20th century is as profound a change as the move from farm to factory in the 19th century. From 1900 through 2000 at any time about 80 percent of adult men have earned a wage. One hundred years ago, only about 20 percent of women earned wages, whereas today about 70 percent do (see Exhibit 1.6).

Exhibit 1.6 Trends in Worker Characteristics: 1960 and 2000

Workers19602000
National Total64,655,805128,279,228
% of Population36.10%45.60%
% Male67.70%53.20%
% Female32.30%46.70%
Inside Metro Areas *29,033,43875,067,972
% Inside Metro Areas*44.90%58.50%
Worked in County of Residence55,254,62594,042,863
Worked Outside County of Residence9,401,18034,236,365
% Working Outside County of Residence14.50%26.60%
% Commuting by POV66.50%75.70%
Number Commuting by POV42,996,11097,107,376
* The list of metropolitan areas over one million has changed in the forty-year period from 34 to 49 areas.

Similar to the greater urbanization of population, workers are also more concentrated in the major metropolitan areas. In 2000, nearly 60 percent of all U.S. workers lived in these areas.

The nature of the U.S. workforce is important since a change in worker demographics can have a strong impact on commute behavior. Over the last 40 years a number of changes to the workforce have been noted¹:

1William H. Frey, Bill Abresch, Jonathan Yeasting; America by the Numbers, A Field Guide to the U.S. Population, The New Press, New York, 2001

The U.S. is also an aging society at the turn of the millennium-the same baby boomers that overflowed the school systems in the 1950s and 1960s now fill out the workforce and will begin to reach retirement age by 2010. A shift toward older workers occurs as this large population cohort moves through the years of employment-the civilian employed population aged 45 - 54 grew by 51 percent between 1990 and 2000 while the civilian employed population aged 25 - 34 declined by 13 percent in the same time period (see Exhibit 1.7).

Exhibit 1.7 Number of People in the Civilian Labor Force by Age Group (millions): 1990-2000²

 19902000
Work Force Participation (in millions of workers)
Men in Labor Force, age 16+6975.2
Women in Labor Force, age 16+56.865.6
Age  
Under 2522.522.8
25 343631.7
35 4432.237.8
45 5420.230.5
55 6411.514
65+3.54.2

Immigration will undoubtedly be a factor in filling the worker void left by retiring babyboomers.Policy decisions determine the amount of allowable immigration each year, but if trends continue foreign-born people will be a large factor in population and worker growth in the U.S. Immigrants are generally of working age and enter the work force directly, but come in with varying job skills. Therefore immigrants are employed at both the highest and lowest skill levels. Overall, new immigrants to the U.S. are less dependent on auto travel than native-born people, but as they stay longer they are likely to obtain an auto and travel the same as native-born Americans.

2Source: US Census Bureau; Statistical Abstract of the United States, 2001; Table no. 568.See Chapter 7 for the difference in definition of civilian labor force and worker.

Households

The number of added households per decade since 1960 shows less of a distinct pattern than either population or workers. The largest increase was during the 1970s when the large population of baby boomers moved away from their parents and established their own households. In the 1980s, the number of added households slowed, followed by an increase during the last decade of the century. Older people who have been widowed are more likely today to live alone than to live with other family members. In the last 40 years, the average number of people in a household dropped from 3.4 (1960) to 2.7 (2000) persons per household. At the same time all the major contributors to household travel increased-vehicles, drivers, and workers. Exhibit 1.8 shows the added number of households per decade since 1960.

Exhibit 1.8 Added Number of Households per Decade (Millions): 1960-2000

Exhibit 1-8: Exhibit shows the added number of households per decade since 1960.

Household composition is a major influence on household travel. In the U.S. Census the two major types of households are "family" and "non- family". A family household is composed of at least two people related by birth, marriage, or adoption. A non- family household is either a person living alone or un-related people sharing the same home.

Married couples, with or without children, have become less common in the U.S.; the share of family households fell from 81 percent in 1970 to 68 percent in 2000. For the first time the proportion of single-person households (25.8 percent) is greater than the number of nuclear families (married couples with children are 24.3 percent). Non- family households were 19 percent of all households in 1970 and grew to 31.9 percent in 2000, accounting for nearly a third of all households. Non- family households are a mix of people living alone, unmarried couples, and people living with friends or roommates.Exhibit 1.9 displays the household composition shown by the 2000 Census.

Exhibit 1.9 Household Composition: 2000

Exhibit 1-9: Exhibit displays the household composition shown by the 2000 Census.

The change in households from a traditional nuclear family to more diverse and smaller arrangements adds to the number of people separately traveling to work. Average household size has declined from 3.14 people per household in 1970 to 2.59 in 2000.Large households have become much less common; the proportion of households with 5 or more people was 21 percent in 1970 and 11 percent in 2000.

The decade past saw a large increase in single-person households; almost 5 million of the 13.5 million added households were single-person. Another 2.4 million were single parent, 2.3 million were married without children, and only 1.5 million households added in the 90s were nuclear families (see Exhibit 1.10).

Exhibit 1.10 Number of Added Households by Household Type: 1990 - 2000

Exhibit 1-10: The decade past saw a large increase in single-person households; almost 5 million of the 13.5 million added households were single-person. Another 2.4 million were single parent, 2.3 million were married without children, and only 1.5 million households added in the 90s were nuclear families.

Diversity Across the Nation

Racial and ethnic diversity has grown in the U.S. over the last four decades. By far the biggest change in the U.S. demographic profile is the growth of traditionally "minority" populations. Nearly 70 million Americans identify themselves as something other than Non-Hispanic white alone, the largest number in the nation's history.

The African-American population is still highly concentrated in the U.S.-in 64 percent of all counties only 6 percent of the population identifies themselves as African-American, but in 3 percent of all counties 50 percent or more of the county population is identified as African-American. The South had the highest proportion of African-Americans with 20 percent compared to 12 percent in the Northeast, 11 percent in the Midwest, and 6 percent in the West. In the South, the counties with majority African-American populations tend to be non-metropolitan, but concentrations of blacks in the Midwest and Western regions are in counties located within metropolitan areas or counties containing universities or military bases or both. In metropolitan areas the concentration tends to be in counties containing older central cities.

The Hispanic population grew at a staggering pace in the 90s, from 22 million to 35 million people who identify themselves as Hispanic (Hispanics can be of any race).Hispanics of any race now rival African-Americans as the largest minority group - 12.5 percent of the population identifies as Hispanic and 12.3 percent as Black alone (and not in combination with any other race).

The increase in Hispanic population is due to both birth rate and immigration; much of the growth is due to the relatively higher birth rate in Hispanic population. The number of Hispanic children has increased faster than any other racial/ethnic group, growing from 9 percent of the child population in 1980 to 16 percent in 2000.

Foreign-Born Residents

The growing number of foreign-born residents is adding to the diversity of the U.S. In 1960, there were about 10 million foreign-born residents of the U.S. In 1990, there were 20 million; and by 2000, it was 30.1 million. In 1960, 95 percent of the foreign-born population considered themselves white--by 1990, 51 percent did.

One-third more immigrants entered the U.S. in the decade between 1990 and 2000 than in the previous decade, and altogether immigrants accounted for two out of five people added. The total number of foreign-born residents increased a striking 57 percent between 1990 and 2000 to 31.3 million people-triple the number in 1970. Nearly 22 million foreign-born residents immigrated to the U.S. since 1980, over 8.3 percent of the resident population (see Exhibit 1.11).

Exhibit 1.11 Immigrants and Total Population Added: 1980-2000

DecadeImmigrantsPopulation ChangeImmigrants as Percent of Population Increase
1980-908,663,62722,164,06839.1
1990-0013,178,27632,712,03340.3

In the 1990s the largest flows of immigrants (of any ethnicity) to the United States have settled in California, New York, Texas, Florida, Illinois, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Virginia, as well as the District of Columbia. Three of those states, California, New York, and New Jersey, as well as the District of Columbia, have experienced high rates of international immigrants while simultaneously experiencing high rates of out-migration to other states, thereby changing the characteristics of the population beyond what simple growth or decline is measured.

A much higher proportion of immigrants live in the largest metropolitan areas-53 percent live in the eight metro areas with 5 million or more people compared to just one-quarter of the native-born population. In areas with between one and five million people, the proportions were not significantly different, and foreign-born people were proportionately less likely to live in areas with less than a million in population or in non-metropolitan areas³.

Immigrants will probably continue to be an important addition to our population and workforce-as the baby boomers move out of their working years fewer and fewer workers are projected to maintain productivity and employment. Travel by new immigrants is different than travel by immigrants who have been here awhile, or native born residents.

The acquisition of vehicles is especially interesting in the immigrant community. Nearly twenty percent of foreign-born persons live in poverty, and this impacts location and transportation choices. Newer immigrants are twice as likely not to have a vehicle than immigrants who have lived in the U.S. for ten years or more. The longer the immigrant family has been residing in the States, the more similar their characteristics of vehicleownership to native-born households. Still, even after a decade, immigrants are twice as likely to continue to be without a car than U.S.-born. Hispanic immigrants who have been in the U.S. for over a decade are more likely to be without a vehicle (11 percent).Exhibit 1.12 shows the proportion of zero-vehicle households for all immigrants compared to U.S.-born, and for Hispanic immigrants. 1990 Census Public Use Microdata Sample File (PUMS) data is shown since 2000 PUMS was unavailable when this report was written.

Exhibit 1.12 Proportion of Households without Vehicles by Number of Years Resident in U.S.

 3 years or less4-5 years6-8 years9-10 years10 + years US Born
Hispanic23.317.715.414.210.86.2
All20.715.712.71283.9

Source: 1990 Census PUMS data

In large cities, the cost of purchasing a vehicle may not be as much of an impediment as the cost of insurance, parking, and vehicle repairs. One out of five poor households own a vehicle fourteen years old or more4, and these older vehicles are less dependable, require more repairs, and may be used sparingly. Even people in households with no cars still make almost half of their trips (all purposes, not just commute trips) in a private vehicle, about a quarter of their trips are by walking, and one in six trips are by transit.

3 Current Population Reports, P23-195, U.S. Census

4 Source: 1995 NPTS

Vehicle Availability

In the 40-year period between 1960 and 2000, 123.6 million vehicles were added, almost two vehicles added for every added worker. The number of vehicles has increased across the country about 15 percent since 1990; compared to 13 percent increase in population and 11 percent increase in workers. Exhibit 1.13 shows the added number of vehicles per decade.

Exhibit 1.13 Added Number of Vehicles per Decade (Millions): 1960-2000

Exhibit 1-13: The number of vehicles has increased across the country about 15 percent since 1990; compared to 13 percent increase in population and 11 percent increase in workers.

The most dramatic change has been the astounding increase in households with two or more vehicles. In 1960, 11.4 million households had 2 or more vehicles; in 2000, 58.5 million households have 2 or more vehicles. Given the decline in household size an even more dramatic increase has been the increase in households with three or more cars.In 1960, very, very few households (only 1.3 percent) had three or more cars. In 2000, 17 percent have 3 or more vehicles (see Exhibit 1.14).

Exhibit 1.14 Number of Households by Vehicles: 1960 and 2000

Households with:Number of Households
19602000
Zero-Vehicle11,416,83510,870,530
One Vehicle30,189,10336,126,041
Two Vehicle10,073,68440,463,699
Three or More1,342,49918,036,636

There are a number of factors pushing the increase in households with at least one vehicle. There is an increase in longevity of the auto fleet-this creates a large stock of viable used vehicles available at a reasonable price. The increasing affordability of cars means more low-income households can own one5.

5 Alan Pisarski, "Commuting in America", ENO Foundation, 1987

Zero-Vehicle Households

The proportion of households with no vehicle dropped to about 10 percent of all households for the first time in 2000. In absolute numbers, however, about the same number of households had no vehicle in 1960 as in 2000 (11.4 million and 10.9 million respectively). But with the decrease in household size, fewer people are affected. In 1960, 38 million people lived in zero-vehicle households, compared to only 28 million people in 2000. The likelihood of owning a vehicle varies by area and region of the country. The New York metro area alone accounts for one- fifth of the zero-vehicle households in the entire country (Exhibit 1.15).

Exhibit 1.15 Percent of All Households without Vehicles, with and without New York CMSA: 1980-2000

 198019902000
U.S. Total13.10%11.50%10.30%
U.S. minus NY CMSA10.80%10.10%8.80%

The likelihood of living in a household without a vehicle also varies dramatically by race and ethnicity. African-American and Hispanic households have consistently had fewer vehicles than white households, but the proportion without vehicles continues to decline (Exhibit 1.16).

Exhibit 1.16 Percent of Households without Vehicles by Race of Householder:1970-2000

Exhibit 1-16: The likelihood of living in a household without a vehicle also varies dramatically by race and ethnicity. African-American and Hispanic households have consistently had fewer vehicles than white households, but the proportion without vehicles continues to decline.

Commuting Trends for the Nation and States

The journey-to-work data is obtained on the decennial census "long form" which allows only one answer to the question on the means of travel to work, so detail on multi-modal trips is missing. Information on travel for other purposes is also not obtained.

Between 1960 and 2000, the U.S. added 102 million households, 124 million vehicles and 64 million workers. The increase in households and vehicles far exceeded the increase in workers and population. Exhibit 1.17 shows some of the dramatic changes in travel-related characteristics of the U.S. population since 1960.

Exhibit 1.17 Changes in Travel Variables: 1960 - 2000

Exhibit 1-17: Exhibit shows some of the dramatic changes in travel-related characteristics of the U.S. population since 1960.

In the majority of the country we may be close to saturating the vehicle availability for workers. However, as indicated above, some population groups, notably Hispanic immigrants and African-Americans living in central cities, have room to grow into vehicle ownership.

Mode

In forty years between 1960 and 2000, almost two vehicles were added to the U.S. household-vehicle fleet for every added worker. Not surprisingly, the use of private vehicle as a means of travel to work has increased from 69 percent of all commuters to 88 percent (Exhibit 1.18). Exhibit 1.19 shows the number of private vehicle commutes in each decade since 1960, showing the increase from 41 million workers in private vehicles to 113 million workers in private vehicles.

In 2000, three-quarters of commuters drove alone to work, 12.2 percent reported carpooling, followed by transit (4.7 percent), work at home (3.3 percent) and walk (2.9 percent). With the total increase in number of workers, workers using transit stayed about the same (6 million workers commute by transit).

Nearly 13 million more workers drove alone in 2000 than did in 1990. One of the big surprises in 2000 is the continuing decline of carpools as a means of travel to work.According to the Census, the number of workers who usually carpool has increased but the proportion of carpooling as a share of total commuters has declined by 1.4 percent (see Exhibit 1.18). Average occupancy for private vehicle modes to work is just 1.08 persons per vehicle.

Exhibit 1.18 Means of Transportation to Work: United States: 1960- 2000

Exhibit 1-18: Between 1960 and 2000, the use of private vehicle as a means of travel to work has increased from 69 percent of all commuters to 88 percent

Exhibit 1.19 Number of Workers Commuting by Private Vehicle: 1960-2000

Exhibit 1-19: Exhibit shows the number of private vehicle commutes in each decade since 1960, showing the increase from 41 million workers in private vehicles to 113 million workers in private vehicles.

Transit

The number of workers taking transit has remained stable since 1980 at about 6 million workers. However, transit commute shares for the U.S. have fallen from 6.2 percent in 1980 to 5.3 percent in 1990, and 4.7 percent 2000. Walk to work has declined both in the number and percent of commuters, whereas work at home showed an increase (see Exhibit 1.20).

Exhibit 1.20 Percent of Workers who do Not Drive alone: 1960-2000

Exhibit 1-20: Transit commute shares for the U.S. have fallen from 6.2 percent in 1980 to 5.3 percent in 1990, and 4.7 percent 2000. Walk to work has declined both in the number and percent of commuters, whereas work at home showed an increase.

A majority of U.S. transit trips are for non-work purposes, and non-work trips are not collected by the census. However, the 2001 National Household Travel Survey (NHTS is periodically conducted by the U.S. Department of Transportation)6 indicates that 35 percent of transit trips are for "earning a living" while 65 percent are for other purposes. Thus, it is not inconsistent that local counts of transit boardings are increasing, while the number of commuters usually using transit to work remains constant (see Exhibit 1.21).

6 http://nhts.ornl.gov

Exhibit 1.21 U.S. Transit Ridership (APTA) and Transit Commuting (Census) Trends: 20007

YearTransit Ridership, APTA (Millions of Boardings) Transit Commuters*, Decennial Census(# of Workers)Total Commuters,Decennial Census(# of Workers)Transit Commute Share, Decennial Census
19808,5676,007,72896,617,2966.20%
19908,7995,890,155115,070,2745.10%
20009,3635,867,559128,279,2284.60%
* Transit commuters exclude taxicab commuters.

Because the decennial census obtains information about the workers "usual" commute, it doesn't capture an actual day of travel, as does the NHTS. Because the NHTS includes both questions we can compare the two answers directly (Exhibit 1.22). People who say that they usually drive are very consistent in their commute behavior-99 percent of those who say they usually drove alone and 97 percent of those who usually drive with others are in private vehicles on any given work day. People who usually take transit, walk, or bike are less likely to be on that mode on any given work day.

Exhibit 1.22 Mode of Travel on Travel Day for Workers Making a Commute Trip Compared to "Usual Mode"

Usual Mode is:On Travel Day Took:
Single Occupant VehicleDrove with OthersTransitWalkedBikedNo Report/Other
Drove Alone90.0%9.3%0.2%0.3%0.1%0.2%
Carpool22.20%74.80%1.00%1.40%0.40%0.30%
Transit7.80%9.70%69.40%10.10%0.50%2.50%
Walk8.10%9.20%2.60%79.50%0.20%0.40%
Bike6.70%8.40%1.70%6.10%77.10%0.00%

Overall, 4.6 percent of the respondents in NHTS said that they "usually" take transit to get to work. A bit more than two-thirds (69 percent) of those who said they usually take transit actually rode transit to work on the travel day, resulting in 3.7 percent of workers using transit on an assigned travel day.

7 Source: CTPP Status Report, September 2002, "Transit Ridership and Transit Commuting Trends: Why are They Different?" by Chuck Purvis, MTC, Oakland, CA

Work at Home

The character of working at home has changed dramatically over the last half century.The decline in home-based employment from 1960 to 1970 was presumably a result in the decline of family farm employment and the consolidation of formerly home-based professional occupations (doctors and lawyers) into group practices. But since 1980, "work at home" has increased. Home-based workers expanded from 2.2 million workers in 1980, to 3.4 million workers in 1990, to 4.2 million workers in 2000 (see Exhibit 1.23).

Exhibit 1.23 Number and Percent of Workers who Work at Home: 2000

YearNumber of WorkersWorked at HomePercent
198096,617,2962,179,8632.3
1990115,070,2743,406,0253
2000128,279,2284,184,2233.3

As of 20008, some of the characteristics of workers who usually work at home include:

For transportation planners the problem is greater than capturing a reliable estimate of the size and composition of the home-based work force, but also to determine and track the amount of work done at home, and to understand trends in the amount and type of work performed at home rather than at another location.

Travel Time

American workers are spending more time than ever getting to work. In 2000, the average travel time to work was 25 minutes and 30 seconds, an increase of over two minutes compared to 1990.9 The overall increase in travel time between 1980 and 1990 was only 40 seconds, so this change between 1990 and 2000 is significantly larger.

In 2000, 15 percent of workers commuted more than 45 minutes to work, up from only 11 percent in 1980. On the other hand, only 28 percent of workers commuted less than 15 minutes, down from 34 percent in 1980. Workers who said they worked at home were not included in the category of 15 minutes or less. More detail on each of these topics for the largest metropolitan areas in the U.S. is provided in the following chapters.

8 U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Reports, "Home-Based Workers in the United States: 1997,"December 2001

9 Some of this difference is due to coding changes of very long trips between 1990 and 2000. See Chapter 7 for more information.

Updated: 04/28/2011
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