Report Shows More Biking, Public Transit Use in Three Michigan Cities

PIRGIM Education Fund

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Eric S Mosher
Program Associate, PIRGIM Education Fund
Office: 734-662-6597
Cell: 917-745-7792
[email protected]

Report Shows More Biking, Public Transit Use in Three Michigan Cities
Grand Rapids Found 6th out of Nation’s 100 Largest Urban Areas in Terms of Increased Public Transportation Use

Ann Arbor – A first-of-its-kind report by PIRGIM Education Fund shows reduced rates of car commuting in Michigan’s urbanized areas—including Grand Rapids, Detroit and Flint—and greater use of public transit and biking, especially in Grand Rapids.

“This important study signals that the investment cities have been making in transit and non-motorized transportation are paying off. It is no accident that Grand Rapids has experienced a 44% increase in passenger miles traveled by transit in a half-decade, or that the percentage of work trips on bicycles places our city 12th in the country,” said Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell. “Public investment drives public behavior by giving citizens choices. We must capitalize on the improvements so clearly identified in the report by dedicating financial resources at the federal and state levels to accelerate local investments in transit and non-motorized transportation.”

“Cities in Michigan and across the country are shifting away from driving,” said Eric S Mosher, Program Associate for the PIRGIM Education Fund. “Policy makers need to recognize these changing transportation patterns and invest in public transit and biking, instead of new and expanded highway projects.”

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.
  • The percent of workers commuting by private vehicle in the Grand Rapids urbanized area fell almost 2 percent between 2000 and the 2007 to 2011 period—the 39th largest reduction out of the 100 largest urbanized areas in the U.S.
  • Detroit saw a 0.1% increase in workers who biked to work during the same period of time, ranking 59th out of the 100 urbanized areas studied in the report.
  • The number of passenger miles travelled on transit per capita increased 12.5 percent in Detroit between 2005 and 2010. In Grand Rapids, transit passenger miles per person increased by over 50%—the 7th
    largest percentage increase among the 100 largest urban areas in that
    category. Measured in terms of the number of trips taken on public
    transit per-capita, Grand Rapids witnessed a 51.2 percent increase from 2005 to 2010. Flint ranked 10th in increased passenger trips per-capita out of the 100 areas studied, with a 31.1 percent increase between 2005 and 2010.
  • The proportion of commuters travelling by bicycle grew in Flint, Detroit, and Grand Rapids between 2000 and 2010, as it did in 82 of the other 100 most populous urbanized areas.
  • The proportion of households without a car increased 2.9 percent in the Grand Rapids 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 Flint, where it fell 3.8 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 Grand Rapids, which had the 35th steepest increase among that group.

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 our leaders in Lansing to support transportation initiatives that reflect these changing trends,” said Mosher. “Instead of wasting taxpayer dollars continuing to enlarge our 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.

“This report continues to provide evidence that the cultural habits of our drivers—young and old—are changing,” said John LaMacchia, a Legislative Associate with the Michigan Municipal League who specializes in transportation and infrastructure issues. “It is critical that as this shift in driving habits takes place we put a greater emphasis, at all levels of government, on dedicating and investing more resources to provide multi-modal transportation options.”

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

To read an earlier PIRGIM Education Fund 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,” here.

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