Report Shows Newark/NYC Region Driving Less, Using Transit and Alternatives More

Newark/NYC Shows Nation’s Greatest Reduction in Car Commuting

NJPIRG Law & Policy Center

TRENTON – A first-of-its-kind report by the NJPIRG Law & Policy Center shows reduced driving miles and rates of car commuting in New Jersey’s urbanized areas—including the Newark/NYC and Philadelphia areas—and greater use of public transit and biking. 

“There is a shift away from driving in our cities here in New Jersey and across the country,” said Peter Skopec, Program Associate at the NJPIRG Law & Policy Center. “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 other alternatives 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 in the Newark/NYC urbanized area fell 4.8 percent between 2000 and the 2007 to 2011 period—the largest reduction out of the 100 largest urbanized areas in the U.S.
  • In the Newark/New York City urbanized area, there was an 8.7 percent decrease in vehicle-miles traveled (VMT) per capita from 2006 to 2011. In the Philadelphia area, driving miles per capita decreased by 9.4 percent. The decrease in Newark/NYC was the 16th largest percent decrease, Philadelphia’s the 13th largest percent decrease among America’s 100 largest cities.
  • The number of passenger trips on transit per capita increased 14 percent in Newark/NYC between 2005 and 2010, the 22nd-largest increase in the nation. 
  • In Newark/NYC and Philadelphia, the proportion of commuters travelling by bicycle grew, as it did in 85 of the most populous 100 urbanized areas between 2000 and 2010.

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 Trenton to support transportation initiatives that reflect these travel trends,” said Skopec. “Instead of wasting taxpayer dollars continuing to enlarge our grandfathers’ 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 NJPIRG Law & Policy Center 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.