Capitol Alert

SF Bay Area commuters make big shift away from cars

In this Thursday, Feb. 6, 2014 photo, late morning traffic travels on Interstate 5, in Los Angeles. In California, I-5 in Los Angeles County is the most congested route, according to new data from the California Department of Transportation.
In this Thursday, Feb. 6, 2014 photo, late morning traffic travels on Interstate 5, in Los Angeles. In California, I-5 in Los Angeles County is the most congested route, according to new data from the California Department of Transportation. AP

Workers in the San Francisco Bay Area made the nation’s most dramatic shift from commuting via automobile to using alternative transportation between 2006 and 2013, according to a new Census Bureau report.

Commuting by private car in the densely populated region, including carpooling, dropped from 73.6 percent of workers in 2006 to 69.8 percent seven years later, giving it the nation’s third highest level of alternative commuting.

Commuters in the New York City-centered metropolitan area were least likely to use private cars to get to their jobs in 2013, but even so, a majority – 56.9 percent – still did. Ithaca, NY, had the second lowest use of cars, 68.7 percent, followed by the San Francisco Bay Area.

Except for No. 7 Boston and No. 13 Chicago, other regions with relatively low auto commute rates were small communities, many of them dominated by colleges and universities, such a Boulder, Colo., and Corvallis, Ore.

Overall, 76.4 percent of the nation’s workers drove alone to get to work in 2013, the Census Bureau’s survey found, followed by those who carpooled, 9.4 percent; used public transit, 5.2 percent; worked at home, 4.4 percent; walked, 2.8 percent; or used “other means of travel,” 1.3 percent.

Bicycling was the least popular method of commuting, used by just six-tenths of one percent of workers.

The Census Bureau report did not include a state-by-state breakdown of commuting modes, but a 2006 report by the Public Policy Institute of California said that 71.8 percent of California commuters drove alone to their jobs. Including carpools, California’s auto commuting rate was 86.4 percent, 1.5 percentage points below the national rate.

The PPIC report said that San Francisco alone, excluding the rest of the Bay Area, by far, had the lowest rate of auto commuting, with just 40.5 of it workers driving alone. With carpooling, San Francisco’s rate climbed to 51.3 percent.

In Los Angeles, meanwhile, 85.5 percent of workers commuted by private car, either alone or with others, roughly the same rate as the state as a whole.

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