Solo Commuting More Popular than Ever

If you’ve got to commute solo, do it in one of these babies, a Honda 3R-C, which runs on batteries, takes up less space in the parking lot and has space for carrying grocery bags.

Wendell Cox has laid his hands on some U.S. Census commuting data that I cannot find on the Census Bureau website. In a recent column, he disseminated what he deems to be key findings. Solo automobile commuting reached an all-time record high in the United States in 2010, he says, increasing by 7.8 million commuters. Solo driving came partly at the expense of carpooling, which lost 2.4 million riders.

Working at home (telecommuting) also gave a strong showing, gaining 1.7 million workers over the decade. Mass transit enjoyed its first 10-year gain since the Census Bureau began collecting data 50 years ago — picking up 900,000 daily commuters. Washington, D.C. was the third-largest transit commuting market in the country, following New York and San Francisco, picking up 130,000 commuters.

It strikes me that traditional carpooling and van pooling — workers sharing the same vehicle between home to work — is doomed to continue declining. The practice requires participants to drive to work and back, with no stops along the way, at the same time every day. Fewer and fewer people have jobs that allow them to punch the clock like that.  The nature of work is changing — hours and schedules are becoming more flexible as people juggle work-life balance, run errands and chauffeur kids around town. Carpooling doesn’t match social and economic realities anymore.

Technology may come to the rescue, however. Now that half the population has smart phones, it’s possible to wake up in the morning, check your phone and find someone nearby who is going the same place you are at the same time. The more people who participate, the more choices there will be, and the more attractive the car/van pooling will prove to be as a commuting alternative. It will be interesting to see how that pans out.

Cox is an outspoken foe of Smart Growth, so the spin he put on the Census Bureau numbers may not be the same spin I would use. I’ll report the data first hand as soon as I come across it.


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3 responses to “Solo Commuting More Popular than Ever”

  1. “The nature of work is changing — hours and schedules are becoming more flexible as people juggle work-life balance, run errands and chauffeur kids around town. ”

    What reality is this? Are you living on the same planet as everyone else? If things are so flexible then why is rush hour getting worse?

    I have five cars because there are no flexible schedules, or centralized location for the employees in my family. Ours is a 24/7 household working the inflexible schedule demanded by our employers, scattered throughout Tidewater. The only flexibility is what days and shift the employer needs us to show up. And most of the families I know do the exact same thing. That’s why there’s only the driver in the car.

  2. Darrell, I’m sorry to hear that your employer is so inflexible, but that’s the trend in a lot of places. We even see it here in Richmond, and this place isn’t exactly a national pace-setter.

    I also think you’re making my point larger point. If your employer shifts you times and locations of work, the carpooling thing really isn’t going to work for you, is it?

  3. hmmmm….

    rush hour, by definition, if everyone moving from one locale to another in the same direction.

    it can be fairly easily verified by looking at the “in” vs “out” lanes. Using one side is chock-a-block while the other is much less congested.

    In a scenario where there is no true rush hour – the congestion is on all lanes and is not associated with specific time periods.

    If you plotted a typical rush hour it would look like two bell curves – one the morning rush and the other the evening rush.

    people who drive solo want more infrastructure to ease their commute but they often adamantly do not want to pay for it. They expect the “state” to pay for it and therein lies the conundrum.

    I strongly suspect that if a referendum were offered for special projects with a price tag and a choice of tolls or taxes to pay for them that the result would be outrage from the commuters.

    Okay.. so saying it this way makes commuters sound like ignorant ninnies who want what they want – and that’s all there is to it.

    so I admit it.. it sounds like that to me… so convince me that I’ve got it wrong.

    what do commuters really want and who do they think should pay if not themselves?

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