The dismal economy and skyrocketing gas prices may have accomplished what years of advocacy failed to: getting more people to stop driving solo. The share of workers driving to work alone dropped slightly from 2010 to 2011 while commutes on public transportation rose nationally and in some of the largest metropolitan areas.
Group commuting — riding buses, trains, subways or sharing cars or vans — rose from 2005 to 2011 in more than a third of 342 metropolitan areas for which data exist.
About two-thirds saw jumps in residents using public transit. The share driving to work alone dropped in about two-thirds or more than 200 metros.
New York, by far the national leader in mass transit use, saw a two-percentage-point jump. Now, almost a third of residents in the New York metro area use public transportation.
Ride-sharing "a lot of times is a response to higher gas prices," says Eddie Caine, who heads the van pool program for Valley Metro, Phoenix's regional transportation agency. "But once people try van pooling, they tend to enjoy not having the stress, saving money and they make friends."
The national average price for regular gasoline is $3.85 a gallon, according to AAA and the Oil Price Information Service. That's up from $3.72 a month ago and $3.59 a year ago. The record is $4.11 set in July 2008.
The Phoenix agency just added bike racks to its vans for people who don't want to drive to their pick-up points.
This week, the American Public Transportation Association reported the sixth consecutive quarterly increase in ridership -- up 1.6% in the second quarter. Rail showed the biggest jump. Several public transit systems in small and large cities (Ann Arbor, Mich., Boston, Oklahoma City) reported record ridership.
Almost 60% of trips on mass transit are work commutes. The surge in group commutes is showing up in some areas where van pools shuttle employees from train stations or suburbs to job centers. Overall, the percentage of workers carpooling held steady at 9.7% but is still slightly below pre-recession levels -- a likely effect of high unemployment in sectors such as construction and manufacturing.
[Via Usa Today]