Report Shows PA Urbanized Areas Driving Less, Using Transit and Alternatives More

Rise in Public Transit Miles Among Steepest in Nation

PennPIRG Education Fund

Ashley Afranie-Sakyi
Office: 215-732-3747
Cell: 703-470-0469
[email protected]

Report Shows PA Urbanized Areas Driving Less, Using Transit and Alternatives More
Rise in Public Transit Miles Among Steepest in Nation

PHILADELPHIA – A first-of-its-kind report by PennPIRG Education Fund shows reduced driving miles and rates of car commuting in Pennsylvania’s urbanized areas—including Pittsburgh and Harrisburg —and greater use of public transit and biking.
“The change in the transportation habits of Americans noted by PennPIRG are reflected in SEPTA’s upward trend in Regional Rail ridership.  Over the last 15 years, Regional Rail ridership has increased 50 percent, with annual ridership up from 24 million to 36 million trips. SEPTA is thrilled to welcome new riders to the system,” said SEPTA General Manager Joseph M Casey.

“There is a shift away from driving in our cities here in Pennsylvania and across the country,” said Ashley Afranie-Sakyi, Program Associate for the PennPIRG 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 Pittsburgh urbanized area, there was a 13 percent decrease in vehicle-miles traveled (VMT) per capita from 2006 to 2011. In Harrisburg, driving miles per capita decreased by 14.1 percent. [The decrease in Harrisburg was the 4th largest percent decrease among America’s 100 largest cities.]
  • The number of passenger miles travelled on transit per capita increased 3.6 percent in Philadelphia between 2005 and 2010. In Harrisburg, transit passenger miles per person increased by 68.2 percent—the 5th 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, Harrisburg witnessed a 18.2 percent increase from 2005 to 2010
  • The proportion of households without a car increased .5 percent in the Philadelphia 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 Philadelphia, where it fell 1.3 percent.

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 Harrisburg to support transportation initiatives that reflects these travel trends,” said Afranie-Sakyi. “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.”

“Philadelphia is one of our nation’s most urbanized areas with a growing number of residents who depend heavily on multimodal forms of transportation, including bi-cycling and public transit.  Similarly, Harrisburg and Pittsburgh are also experiencing an increase in commuters reliance on multimodal traveling” said Representative Parker Democratic Chair of the Subcommittee on Public Transportation. “To ensure our Commonwealth’s economic growth, our funding priorities must meet the demands of the residents who live, work, shop and patronize services in Pennsylvania. The PennPIRG report released today establishes a need for future investment ensuring that Pennsylvanians have access to safe and reliable modes of travel that will keep our economy growing.”

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 should be reviewed by anyone with an interest in transportation policy” said Representative McGeehan, Chairman of the Transportation Committee. In order to build systems that work in the real world, we need to understand how people are getting to work, to school, and to all the places they go.”

“Transportation trends are changing due to a more health conscience society and one that looks closer at quality of life issues that we have control over” said Senator John Wozniak, Democrat Chairman, Transportation Committee.”Communities that have alternative transportation amenities, whether it is bike and pedestrian trails or reliable transit, available attract motivated people with a higher economic status”.

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

To read an earlier PennPIRG 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” download here

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PennPIRG Education Fund works to protect consumers and promote good government. We investigate problems, craft solutions, educate the public, and offer meaningful opportunities for civic participation.