Commuting in America - USA Today

In a USA Today cover story today, Larry Copeland gave John Norquist a chance to react to the not-so-good news found in the latest "Commuting in America" report.
John used the opportunity to say how growing developer interest in mixed-use urbanism is poised to affect the so-far declining numbers for walking as a share of commuting nationwide -- at least slowing the decline and perhaps eventually leading to a turnaround. The report focuses on the 1980-2000 period.

Check out the article and the report at Study sees longer rides to work, more commuting by older women


Study sees longer rides to work, more commuting by older women
Updated 10/16/2006 9:06 AM ET
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By Larry Copeland, USA TODAY
A coming surge in the number of older women driving. A steep decline in the percentage of people who walk to work. An embrace of carpooling by Hispanics. A sharp increase in the portion of black households that own cars.
These are key findings of the most exhaustive study of Americans' driving habits in the past 10 years, cited in a report released today by the Transportation Research Board, an arm of the National Research Council.

RELATED: Baby boomers, immigrants change commuting patterns

For "Commuting in America III," Virginia transportation expert Alan Pisarski examined Census data from 1990-2004 over 2½ years. He also published "Commuting in America" reports in 1987 and 1996. Among his findings:

• The number of older female drivers will increase dramatically as baby boomers work past age 65. Currently, 75% of women over 55 have driver's licenses, while 90% of women under 55 drive. 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.

"Retired tend to be very careful drivers — no freeways, no after-dark driving," Pisarski says. "But if you're working, you don't have that choice. That's a safety question we'll have to address."

• The percentage of Americans who walk to work dropped from 5.6% in 1980 to 3.9% in 1990 and 2.9% in 2000.

Walking has "been replaced by transit, been replaced by the automobile," Pisarski says. "If you think of the number of jobs one can get to walking, no matter where you live, it's very limited. But if you add a 10-minute commute time, you multiply many times over the number of jobs available."

John Norquist, president of the Chicago-based Congress for the New Urbanism, which promotes the development of communities where jobs and stores are close to housing, predicts that the decline of walking will slow.

Norquist says that although developers increasingly are building homes in mixed-use, "live-work-play" neighborhoods and getting premium prices for them, "most of the stuff that's built is still in the sprawl form. (But) I think we will see a dramatic effect on the walking numbers five years from now."

• Hispanics carpool at a rate double that for non-Hispanics — 23% vs. 11%. "It's an extraordinary phenomenon," Pisarski says. "These might be car pools of four, five or six people. It tends to be very early morning starts. It may be a cultural thing, where you tend to know your neighbor, or it might be out of necessity."

• The "most significant trend regarding auto ownership" is the sharp drop in the percentage of African-American households without vehicles, from 31% in 1990 to about 24% in 2000.

• Commutes are getting longer. The portion of workers who reach their jobs in less than 20 minutes dropped to 47% in 2000 after hovering around 50% for decades. Commutes in 40 states increased two to four minutes. Georgia and West Virginia led all states with increases of five minutes or more.


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