Commuters make their way in the southbound, left, and n... Commuters make their way in the southbound, left, and northbound lanes on Highway 100 as snow falls in St. Louis Park, Minn., Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013. (AP Photo/The Star Tribune, Elizabeth Flores).
Commuters are shedding their reliance on cars.

They're not driving to work in their own vehicles as often as they once did. They're not carpooling with other workers as often. They're increasingly using public transportation or simply working from home.

Those are the conclusions of a study released this week by U.S. PIRG, which reviewed data from the Federal Highway Administration, Federal Transit Administration and U.S. Census figures.

It says the proportion of workers commuting in private vehicles, either alone or in a car pool, declined in 99 of the 100 largest urban areas in America since 2000.

Newark, New Jersey saw the greatest percentage of workers put down their keys, with a 4.8 percent drop, followed by Washington D.C., down 4.7 percent and Austin, Texas, down 4.5 percent.

In recent years, there have been numerous indications that Americans overall are shifting away from driving. The number of per capita vehicle miles traveled reached its peak in 2004. This study claims to be the first to specifically look at the decline in American cities.

"Many existing transportation plans continue to reflect outdated assumptions that the number of miles driven will continue to rise steadily over time," wrote Phineas Baxandall, senior analyst at U.S. PIRG and the study's author. "Officials at all levels should revisit transportation plans to ensure they reflect recent declines in driving and new understandings of the future demand for travel."

The U.S. PIRG study details changes that on a market-by-market basis. Among its other findings:

- The proportion of residents working form home has increased in every one of the 100 largest urban areas since 2000

- The proportion of households without cars increased in 84 of the 100 largest markets between 2006 and 2011

- The proportion of households with two cars or more decreased in 86 of the 100 largest markets between 2006 and 2011

One of the more notable trends appears to be the death of carpooling as a commuting option. Between 2000 and 2011, carpooling declined 17.8 percent, according to the U.S. PIRG study. Only 9.7 percent of workers now report they share rides to work.

The results are not entirely surprising: The number of Americans who work from home increased 45 percent between 1997 and 2010, according to an earlier study conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Curiously, the decline in driving hasn't dampened demand for cars. Automakers expect to sell approximately 16.4 million vehicles this year, according to the latest projections released earlier this week. It's the best year for auto sales since 2007, when more than 17 million cars were sold.

Pete Bigelow is an associate editor at AOL Autos. He can be reached via email at peter.bigelow@teamaol.com and followed on Twitter @PeterCBigelow.


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