After all the discussion and exhortations to use any form of transportation other than driving alone in your own car, the Census bureau reports that Americans are much happier doing just that, and the rates for mass transit use, bicycling, carpooling, etc. are either dropping or standing still, as this article from the Wall Street Journal reports.
American commuters prefer to go it alone—mostly by driving to the office, but increasingly by working from home.
Last year, about 76% of workers 16 years and older drove to work alone—just shy of the all-time peak of 77% in 2005, according to data from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey. Driving alone dipped slightly during the recession, but it has been ticking back up as the economy revives.
Meanwhile, just about every other way of getting to work has either languished or declined. Carpooling has tanked—falling from about 20% in 1980, when gasoline prices were soaring from the oil shock of the late 1970s, to under 10% in 2012. Public transportation accounted for just over 6% of daily commutes in 1980 and is now 5%. A category the Census calls “other means”—which includes biking—stands at 2%, largely unchanged over the past decade.
These commuting trends come despite efforts to get people to use public transportation or other alternatives. And a variety of forces are coming together to ensure that Americans continue to seek out lonely commutes—and the numbers could grow.
Tim Anson, 35 years old, an architect in Birmingham, Ala., is one of America’s solo commuters. He drives about 25 minutes to work—roughly the national average—from his home near downtown to an office park in a suburb south of the city.
He says he has no viable or appealing alternative. “Biking would be practically impossible,” he said. While he recently helped a colleague with car trouble get to work, he generally thinks carpooling means less freedom. “If you’re carpooling with someone, you find yourself on someone else’s schedule,” he said.