Peabody award–winning journalist Andrea Bernstein is Senior Editor for Politics & Policy for WNYC News. She has previously served as Metro Editor, Political Director, Director of Transportation Nation, and Senior Reporter.
New Census Data: For Commutes, Car Use Up, Transit Down, NYC Shows Opposite Trend
Thursday, September 22, 2011 - 12:01 AM
Transit use is down. Carpooling is down. And driving to work alone is up. That’s according to data just out this morning from the American Community Survey.
The U.S. Census Bureau released detailed survey data showing how commuting habits have changed in recent years. As we begin to parse the numbers, here's an initial look at how Americans are getting to work, and how New Yorkers are different from the rest of the country when it comes to rush hour habits.
Between 2006 and 2010, the data show, the percentage of Americans driving to work alone rose from 76.0 percent to 76.6 percent. During the same period, the number of Americans taking public transportation rose just a tenth of a percentage point – but declined last year to 4.9 percent, down from 5.0 percent in 2009.
The U.S. Census says those number are statistically significant.
Carpooling nationally dropped more dramatically from 2006, down from 10.7 percent to 9.7 percent. Meanwhile, walking to work has hovered around 2.8 or 2.9 percent. And people getting to work by other means, including bike or motorcycle, has remained steady at 1.7 percent.
The American Community Survey measures the primary way of getting to work not combinations of different modes.
The data also show what an outlier New York City is -- more than eleven times as many New Yorkers take public transportation to work as do their counterparts nationwide. Click around on the map above for a sampling of the numbers by neighborhood.
New Yorkers by and large take transit or walk to work, with the notable exceptions of Eastern Queens and the entire borough of Staten Island.
A big chunk of Lower Manhattan residents -- more than a third in some census districts -- walk to work. No other neighborhood in the five boroughs fields close to that number of walkers.
Bucking the national trend, transit use in New York City has been steadily rising since 2006 -- from 54.2 percent of New Yorkers in the five boroughs in 2006 to 55.7 percent in 2010. In some neighborhoods, more than 70 percent of people commute by transit. New York City had previously estimated that 76.7 percent of people commute without the use of a private car.
These new ACS figures show the figure is even higher. Just 22.7 percent of New Yorkers drive to work, down from 23.6 percent in 2006.
Despite the changes in how New Yorkers get to work, commute times have held more or less steady over this period. The median commute nationally is about 25 minutes -- and 40 minutes in the New York area. All the more time to read the paper on the subway.