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commute mode share
This indicator is measured by:
  • Percent of Commuters who Drove Alone, Percent of Commuters who Carpooled, Percent of Commuters who Took Public Transportation, Percent of Commuters who Walked, Percent of Commuters who Traveled by Other Means, and Percent of Commuters who Worked from Home
Percent of Commuters who Drove Alone 
  1. NYC: 23.4%
  2. DC: 36.9%
  3. San Francisco: 38.9%
Percent of Commuters who Carpooled
  1. Houston: 13.8%
  2. LA: 11.1%
  3. Chicago: 10.3%
Percent of Commuters who Walked
  1. Boston: 13.9%
  2. DC: 11.3%
  3. NYC: 10%
Percent of Commuters who took Public Transportation
  1. NYC: 54.7%
  2. DC: 37.1%
  3. Boston: 32.8%
Source: US Census American Community Survey (The Commute Mode Share rankings are based on a comparison of the 2005-2009 American Community Survey Data. The above list is a combination of US cities with the largest populations and those demonstrating environmental leadership).
Bike to work day
Bike to Work Day was a great success in 2011. Make every day a bike to work day! Photo credit: WABA,
Every weekday, more than 410,000 people travel to the District from neighboring suburbs, a 72% increase over its resident population. In fact, the District has the largest percent increase in daytime population of any city in the country. This affects the District in many ways by increasing congestion, reducing air quality, and increasing carbon dioxide emissions. In 2006, for instance, 22% of the District’s carbon emissions were a result of vehicle miles travelled; by contrast, mass transit only contributed two percent. The good news is that the District has excellent transportation options, and more and more commuters are choosing to travel by methods other than a single occupant vehicle. The more commuters who carpool, take public transportation, bike, or walk, the fewer cars there are on the road, which lessens congestion. 

Driving is expensive as well as environmentally harmful. According to the American Public Transportation Association, using public transportation instead of owning a car saves riders an average of $9,656 annually. Taking public transportation does pay! 

High-occupancy vehicle lanes are just one perk of carpooling. Photo credit: Rhobite, via Wikipedia Commons.
What defines the indicator? How often updated?

This data came from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey for the years 2002-2009. This indicator is defined by measuring the percentage of commuters who drove alone, the percentage of commuters who carpooled, the percentage of commuters who took public transportation, the percentage of commuters who walked, the percentage of commuters who traveled by other means, and the percentage of commuters who worked from home. This data is updated on a yearly basis. 

What influences this indicator?

Many factors go into our decision on how we will commute to work each day. Some people commute into the District by car because there are no Metrobus stops or Metrorail stations near their home, or because their workplace is not easily accessible by public transit. Some people simply prefer the freedom of having their own vehicle to navigate the city. 

Inconveniences caused by severe traffic or road construction may turn some drivers into public transit users. Others may be swayed to opt for Metrobus or Metrorail by the high costs of fuel, vehicle maintenance, and parking. Some individuals may choose to carpool or avoid driving because of a concern for the environment.  

What you can do to help:

  • Take public transportation, walk or ride a bicycle when possible.
  • Carpool with others to your nearest metro station if one is not within walking distance or bus service is unavailable.
  • Purchase a fuel-efficient, electric, or hybrid vehicle.
Take fewer driving trips; when possible, combine multiple errands in one trip.

Related indicators: Walkability, Air Quality, CO2e Levels, Capital BikeShare, Transit 

Links to related programs

Pool Rewards: Cash for Carpools  

Park and Ride Lot Locations 

Other Links 

U.S. Census Data 

National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board’s 2010 State of the Commute  

Tips for Carpooling 

Local Motion (Arlington, VA)

HOV Lanes

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