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Changes in Commuting Modes

Changes in Commuting Modes

It has been widely reported that auto travel—after rising for decades—fell during the recession of 2008 but has recovered since then.  In this report, HRTPO staff:

  • examines this trend—over the time period 2006 thru 2015—using data for both Hampton Roads and the US, and
  • examines the modal habits of young workers over recent decades.

Public Transit to Work

Source: US data: US Census compiled by CUTR; HR data: HRTPO staff 

As shown above, although US transit usage has increased slightly over the last decade, usage in Hampton Roads has been flat.

Walked & Biked to Work 

 Source: US data: US Census compiled by CUTR; HR data: HRTPO staff 

 For both the US and Hampton Roads, walking/biking to work has remained unchanged over this time period.

Carpooling to Work 

Source: US data: US Census compiled by CUTR; HR data: HRTPO staff 

Carpooling, on the other hand, has decreased fairly consistently in both the US and Hampton Roads.

Drove Alone to Work 

Source: US data: US Census compiled by CUTR; HR data: HRTPO staff 

Lastly, although (as widely reported) the tendency to drive alone to work in the US dropped in 2008 then rebounded, the tendency to drive alone to work in Hampton Roads has increased significantly from 2006 (79%) to 2015 (83%).

Given this surprising local result—and the many reports about the different travel habits of Millennials (born 1982 to 2000), whose presence in the workforce increased over this time period—HRTPO staff examined how the travel habits of young people in the US have changed over the decades.  Going back as far as on-line Census data allows, staff examined the drive-alone habits of 20-somethings in 1990 and 2000—when they were part of GenX (born 1965 thru 1981)—to 2010 and 2015—when they were Millennials.

U.S. Commuters in Their Early 20s, Through the Decades 

Sources: Commuting in America II, HRTPO processing of CTTP 2000 and ACS 2010 data, Planetizen

As shown above, not only do Millennials in their early 20s (3rd and 4th blue bars) drive alone slightly more than their predecessors in GenX (1st and 2nd blue bars), but they are also slightly more similar to the general population (red bars) than their predecessors.  Noticing that, in 2015, “72.5% of 20 to 24-year-olds drove alone to work versus the national average of 76.6%”, Steven Polzin—director of mobility policy research at the Center for Urban Transportation Research (CUTR) at the University of South Florida—concluded “that segment of the millennial population is not changing commuting behaviors very quickly.” (Planetizen.com, 28 Sep 2016) 

In conclusion, concerning travel modes to work, we see that:

  1. Over the last decade, Hampton Roads (HR) has not experienced the slight increase in public transportation seen for the US
  2. Over the last decade, carpooling rates in HR have dropped, as they have for the US
  3. Over the last decade, driving alone has increased in Hampton Roads, bucking the national trend of no change
  4. Millennials in their early 20s drove alone at rates more similar to the general working population than did GenXers when they were in their early 20s.
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