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76% Of US Commuters Are “Driving Alone In A Private Vehicle”

In a finding that will surprise very few people, data from the US Bureau of the Census has revealed that the most common mode of transportation to work within the US is “driving alone in a private vehicle.”

This mode of transportation to work accounted for 76.4% of all commuters in the US in 2014, according to the data.


Now, to those who have never lived in the US, or have lived only within the big cities, the thing to keep in mind when reading this is that, for many people, there are no other viable options. Many small to mid-sized cities in the US literally don’t have public transportation of any kind that runs at night or on the weekends. And there is often quite a distance, for many people, between place of residence and place of employment, anyways.

Many of those who I’ve known that have been forced to rely on the limited public transportation available in many places in the US spend 3, 4, 5, or even 6 hours a day on travel to and from work. Often to jobs that pay very low wages. As a result, personal vehicle ownership and use in the US is quite high by the standards of many other parts of the world, as it’s often the best choice with regard to time/money. (Gas/petrol prices in the US are also relatively low.)

The distance between different people’s homes and places of employment often makes carpooling impractical as well, it should be noted.

Here’s some more background from the US Department of Energy: “The percentage of those driving to work alone increased in each decade from 1980 to 2014. Conversely, carpooling decreased in that same time frame. In 2014, 9.6% of workers carpooled, down from 19.7% in 1980. Public transit was used by 6.4% of workers in 1980 and thereafter remained at about 5%. Working at home reduces the need to travel. In 1980, 2.3% reported working at home and that number nearly doubled by 2014, likely aided by the proliferation of technology that makes telework convenient.”

It should be remembered that when almost everyone you know works at the same place, carpooling is much more practical. While in the 1970s and beforehand that may well have been the case in the US, it certainly isn’t anymore. Most people don’t work at the same place as their neighbors or family members nowadays, or even in the same city.

Also, distances between places of employment and residence have increased, making walking and bicycling less of an option for most (the “Other” category that decreased in the graph above.)

h/t Bob Wallace

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James Ayre's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy.


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