Report Shows people driving less in cities across California, Using Transit and Alternatives More

CALPIRG Education Fund

CA – A first-of-its-kind report by the CALPIRG Education Fund shows reduced driving miles and rates of car commuting in California’s urbanized areas—including the Los Angeles-Santa Ana, San Francisco-Oakland, San Jose, and San Diego areas  —and greater use of public transit and biking.

“There is a shift away from driving in our cities here in California and across the country,” said Garo Manjikian, Advocate for the CALPIRG Education fund. “Policy makers need to wake up and realize the driving boom is over. Based on these national and local trends, we should be investing in public transit and biking for the future.”

The report, “Transportation in Transition: A Look at Changing Travel Patterns in America’s Biggest Cities,” is based on the most current available government data. It is the first ever national study to compare transportation trends for America’s largest cities. Among its findings:

The proportion of workers commuting by private vehicle—either alone or in a carpool—declined in 99 out of 100 of America’s most populous urbanized areas between 2000 and the 2007-2011 period.

  •  In the San Francisco-Oakland urbanized area, there was a 8.3 percent decrease in vehicle-miles traveled (VMT) per capita from 2006 to 2011, in the San Diego urbanized area a 7.9 percent decrease, in San Jose a 6.9 percent decrease, and in Los Angeles-Santa Ana-long beach a 2.3 percent decrease.
  • The percent of workers commuting by private vehicle in the San Francisco-Oakland urbanized area fell 3.9 percent between 2000 and the 2007 to 2011 period—the 5th largest reduction out of the 100 largest urbanized areas in the U.S.
  •  The number of passenger miles travelled on transit per capita increased 18.4 percent in San Jose between 2005 and 2010. In Los Angeles, transit passenger miles per person increased by 13.6 percent.
  • The proportion of commuters travelling by bicycle grew in California cities, as it did in 85 of the most populous 100 urbanized areas between 2000 and 2010. In San Francisco/Oakland the increase was .6 percent, third steepest in the nation.

The study found that cities with the largest decreases in driving were not those hit hardest by the recession. On the contrary, the economies of urbanized areas with the largest declines in driving appear to have been less affected by the recession according to unemployment, income and poverty indicators.

“It’s time for politicians in Sacramento to support transportation initiatives that reflects these travel trends,” said Manjikian. “Instead of wasting taxpayer dollars continuing to enlarge our grandfather’s Interstate Highway System, we should be investing in the kinds of transportation options that the public increasingly favors.”

Across the nation, young people have shown the steepest reductions in driving. Americans 16 to 34 years of age reduced their average driving miles by 23 percent between 2001 and 2009.

“People are finding new ways to get around every day, with growing numbers of walkers, cyclists and transit users — and we see the younger generation avoiding car ownership, especially when they can join carsharing services” said Stuart Cohen, TransForm executive director. “I fully expect this trend to continue and we need to plan for that with even more transportation choices.”

Download the report, “Transportation in Transition: A Look at Changing Travel Patterns in America’s Biggest Cities” here.

To read an earlier CALPIRG Education report on the implications of the national decline in driving, download, “A New Direction: Our Changing Relationship with Driving and the Implications for America’s Future” download here.

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