Monday, October 16, 2006

Commute Times, They Are A'Changing!

Submitted by Paul Ellis

Commuting trends are changing as baby boomers near retirement age at the same time that a large immigrant population has swelled the national labor force, according to a report just released by the Transportation Research Board. In the report, Commuting in America III, Virginia transportation expert Alan Pisarski examined U.S. Census data from 1990-2004 and compared data there to reports he filed in 1987 and 1996.

Among the report's findings:
  • Commutes are getting longer--the number of workers who reach their jobs in less than 20 minutes dropped to 47% in 2000 after hovering around 50% for decades, and commutes in 40 states increased by two to four minutes;
  • The number of older female drivers will increase dramatically as baby boomers work past age 65--as the percentage of the population over 65 rises sharply after 2010, a key question will be how many will continue to work and commute;
  • The percentage of Americans who walk to work dropped from 5.6% in 1980 to 3.9% in 1990 and 2.9% in 2000;
  • More than 4 million Americans now work from home--more now than those who walk to work--and a growing number of workers over age 55 are doing so;
  • Although immigrants make up less than 14 percent of all workers, they represent about 40 percent of those in large carpools;
  • Hispanics carpool at a rate double that for non-Hispanics (23% vs. 11%), and there has been a sharp drop in the percentage of African-American households without vehicles (from 31% in 1990 to about 24% in 2000);
  • Although commuting still dominates public discussion about transportation, it represents just a part of the demand Americans make on the system--work travel now only constitutes 16% of all trips.
Factsheets on the study's information and meaning are also available.

Paul Ellis is lead staff for RAMP; an employee of the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber, Ellis led the Pierce County Transportation Advisory Committee (PCTAC), the community’s largest transportation planning effort.

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