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Non-Motorized Commutes On Rise

This blog is cross-posted from the Advocacy Advance blog, and is authored by Ken McLeod.

Last week the American Community Survey (ACS) released new data showing how people commute to work. This latest data, estimating commutes to work in 2012, shows that non-motorized commutes are on the rise, but walking commuters are not experiencing the same increases as biking.

I looked at the 50 largest cities (in 2005) and found that walking commutes, as a percent of all commutes, have increased by 16.2% since 2005. In the same time period, biking commutes have increased by 68.4% in those same cities. Overall, between 2005 and 2012, these non-motorized commutes have increased 25.6%.

In many large cities, there are more people who commute by walking than by biking, which may account for the smaller percent increase. For example, there are 11 large cities with a higher share of commutes by walking than share of commutes by bicycle in Portland, the large city with the highest share of commutes by bicycle, with 6.1%. Since walking commutes are more prevalent they also have greater explanatory power for non-motorized commutes as a whole.

Many cities have made great progress in increasing walking commutes, including Charlotte, North Carolina, where our current Transportation Secretary, Anthony Foxx, used to be mayor. Between 2005 and 2012, commutes by walking increased 57% and 23.8% between 2011 and 2012. Hopefully his experience with this great improvement will inform his time at the Department of Transportation and translate into efforts to replicate that success in new places.

The ACS data only counts a commute as a particular mode if that mode is used for the majority of the commute. This makes multi-modal commutes, which may incorporate significant amounts of walking, represented as only one mode. The ACS is a major data source used by communities throughout the nation to plan investments and services. These figures estimate the number of commutes that take place by all modes of transportation, and do not estimate non-commute trips. The National Household Transportation Survey estimates what modes of transportation are used for all trips.

If you would like to see the data for the 50 largest cities, please send an email to [email protected].

Read more about Advocacy Advance here.

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