A new report from The Atlantic magazine looks in detail at how citizens from various cities get to work, and whether where they live makes a difference in that decision.
Here are the key highlights from The Atlantic story:
Todd Gabe, an economics professor at the University of Maine and an MPI Affiliate, ran a series of statistical analyses to gauge the determinants of public transportation use and walking and biking in US metropolitan areas. He looked at factors like population density, rainfall, temperature levels, housing development, and the kinds of work people do. The upshot is this:
- Population density increases public transportation usage, but has no effect on walking and biking.
- Weather and climate do play a role, but not necessarily what you'd think. People are more likely to drive to work where the weather is warm and/or wet. Public transit use as well as walking and biking are more common in drier climes but also in places with colder January temperatures.
- The longer the commute (based on the average commute time), the more likely people are to use public transit, but--not surprisingly--the less likely they are to bike or walk.
- The type of housing development matters. The share of housing units built between 2000 and 2006 is negatively associated with the percentage of people who bike, walk or take public transit to work. Rapidly growing cities of sprawl - those which built the most houses during the height of the bubble - remain much more car-dependent than other places.
- Finally, and perhaps most interesting, the way we get to work is associated with the kinds of work we do. The share of workers in the creative class--scientists, engineers, techies, innovators, and researchers, as well as artists, designers, writers, musicians and professionals in healthcare, business and finance, the legal sector, and education--is positively associated with the percentages of people who take public transit or walk or bike to work. In fact this creative class variable was the largest of all.
A slideshow on the site shows the 15 metro areas where commuters use their cars the least, based on the most current data from the American Community Survey. Chicago was 10th on that list, with total non-car use at just over 20%, and 11.5% of commuters using public transportation. "The Greater New York metro (where more than four in 10 workers get to work without their cars) is first, San Francisco is fourth, Boston sixth, Greater D.C. seventh." Champaign-Urbana was eighth on the list.