Report Shows Boston Driving Less

Media Contacts
Kirstie Pecci

Reduction in Car Commuting Among Nation’s Fastest, and Bike Gains Among Largest in the Nation

MASSPIRG Education Fund and Frontier Group

Boston – A first-of-its-kind report by MASSPIRG Education Fund shows reduced driving miles and rates of car commuting in Massachusetts’ urbanized areas—including Boston and Worcester  —and increased biking.

“There is a shift away from driving in our cities here in Massachusetts and across the country,” said Kirstie Pecci, Staff Attorney for the MASSPIRG Education Fund. “The driving boom is over. Based on these national and local trends, we need to continue to invest in public transit and biking for the future.”

The report, “Transportation in Transition: A Look at Changing Travel Patterns in America’s Biggest Cities,” (Transportation in Transition) 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 Boston urbanized area, there was a 2.7 percent decrease in vehicle-miles traveled (VMT) per capita from 2006 to 2011.

·       The percent of workers commuting by private vehicle in the Boston urbanized area fell 3.0 percent between 2000 and the 2007 to 2011 period—the 11th largest reduction out of the 100 largest urbanized areas in the U.S.

·       The number of passenger miles travelled on transit per capita increased 9.3 percent in Worcester between 2005 and 2010. Worcester also witnessed a 13.4 percent increase in passenger trips per capita from 2005 to 2010 and a 21.9 percent increase in transit passenger trips with an increase ranking 19th out of the 100 urban areas surveyed.

·       The proportion of commuters travelling by bicycle grew in Boston, as it did in 85 of the most populous 100 urbanized areas, between 2000 and 2010. In Boston the increase was 0.4 percent, one of the ten steepest in the nation.

·       The proportion of households without a car increased 1.2 percent in the Boston urbanized area between 2006 and 2011. This proportion fell in 84 of the largest 100 urbanized areas. Likewise, the proportion of households with two or more vehicles fell in 86 out the 100 most populous urbanized areas during this period, including Boston, where it fell 1.8 percent.

·       The proportion of residents working out of their home increased in all 100 of America’s most populous urbanized areas between 2000 and 2010, including in Boston.

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.

“The increased transportation funding passed by the legislature in 2013 is a strong step forward,” said Pecci, “but it is widely viewed as a first step. Additional investment in, and modernization of, our public transit system is still needed to bring Boston into the 21st century.”

“It’s great to see the work we’ve done — branding, stabilizing the finances, updating our bus fleet with hybrid diesel and electric buses, building the new hub at Union Station and incorporating new technology – pay off,” said Stephen O’Neill, Administrator of the Worcester Regional Transit Authority of Wocester’s increased use of transit. ”We’re all about moving to the next level and adding even more service lines, so this trend can continue.”

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.

Experts were not surprised by the gains Boston has made in bicycling. “The increase in bicycle commuting is directly related to bike-friendly policies adopted by the city and the state,” said David Watson, Executive Director or MassBike. “Policies are not enough on their own – the city and state have also improved how they implement projects that encourage bicycling and other alternative modes of transportation.”

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

To read an earlier MASSPIRG Education Fund’s 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 A New Direction.