Car Commuting on the Decline, Bike Commuting Hits Record (with Update)


A smaller share of Americans is arriving at work by car, while record numbers are biking to their jobs, according to new data for 2012 from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey.

In 2012, 86 percent of Americans traveled to work either in vehicles they drove themselves or as part of a carpool. That’s a decline of 0.7 percent since 2006 in the proportion of Americans arriving at work by car, truck or van. 

Meanwhile, more than 860,000 Americans reported commuting to work by bicycle – that’s by far the most since the Census began tracking bicycling as a separate category in 1980.

Much of the decline in the number of people commuting via car has taken place as a result of a fall in carpooling, with the share of Americans commuting to work in shared cars falling from 10.7 percent in 2006 to 9.7 percent in 2012. However, over the last three years, carpooling has held onto its market share, with the slight decline in car commuting since 2010 resulting from a fall in the share of Americans driving to work solo. 

Public transportation and walking have held steady in their share of overall commuting, at roughly 5 percent and 2.8 percent, respectively, while bicycling and working from home have continued their steady growth as means of getting to work. Since 2006, the share of Americans biking to work has increased from 0.45 to 0.61 percent, while the percentage working from home has increased from 3.9 percent to 4.4 percent.

Update: Just had a chance to look at the changes in mode share by age group between 2006 and 2012. See if you can spot the pattern:

The share of 20 to 24 year old workers traveling to work via car has declined by 2.2 percent over the last six years. Those young adults have significantly increased their use of public transportation and "other means" of getting to work (which includes bicycling, walking, taxis and motorcycles). Car commuting is less important for everyone under 55 years of age, public transportation is more important for everyone under 45 years of age (with only small, likely insigificant declines among older Americans), and everyone except folks in the oldest age group is working more from home.

Generational shift, anyone?