Report Shows St. Louis and Kansas City Driving Less, Using Alternatives More

Media Contacts
Alec Sprague

Director, New Member Strategies, The Public Interest Network

MoPIRG Foundation

ST. LOUIS – A first-of-its-kind report by MoPIRG Foundation shows reduced rates of car commuting in Missouri’s urbanized areas—including the Saint Louis and Kansas City —and increased use of alternative transportation.

“This report shows that Kansas Citians’ transportation choices are evolving and projects like the downtown streetcar show that our transportation planning strategies are evolving as well,” said Kansas City Mayor Sly James.

“There is a shift away from driving in our cities here in Missouri and across the country,” said Alec Sprague, Midwest federal advocate for the MoPIRG Foundaiton. “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.
  • The percent of workers commuting by private vehicle fell by 2 percent in the St. Louis urbanized area and 1.3 percent in the Kansas City urbanized area between 2000 and the 2007 to 2011 period.
  • The number of passenger miles travelled on transit per capita increased 6.2 percent in Kansas City between 2005 and 2010. Measured in terms of the number of trips taken on public transit per-capita, Kansas City witnessed a 5.9 percent increase from 2005 to 2010.This increase represents approximately 1.2 million more passenger trips in 2010 than in 2005.
  • The proportion of commuters travelling by bicycle grew in St. Louis and Kansas City, as it did in 85 of the most populous 100 urbanized areas between 2000 and 2010.
  • The proportion of households without a car increased 0.8 percent in the Saint Louis urbanized area, and 0.6 percent in the Kansas City urbanized area between 2006 and 2011. This proportion grew 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 St. Louis and Kansas City, where it fell 1.1percent and 1.7 percent respectively.
  • 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 Kansas City and St. Louis.

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 Jefferson City to support transportation initiatives that reflects these travel trends,” said Sprague. “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.

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

To read an earlier MoPIRG Foundation 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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