Americans Drive Solo to Work, Despite Long Delays and Rough Roads
Patterns of people moving goods and services through our economy have changed drastically since the 1990s.
Since 1980, the US population grew by 43%, the same amount that vehicle miles traveled grew in rural areas. But the number of miles driven in urban areas grew by 163%. Vehicle registrations outgrew population, increasing 66% over the same period.
Americans overwhelmingly commute to work alone in cars, with three-quarters (76.4%) of the estimated 153 million people going to work every morning in America driving solo (Fig. 122). Though driving (including carpools) as a share of all commuting shrank a few percentage points since the early nineties, there was a net increase of 39 million people using vehicles to get to work since 1993. In 2017, just 5% took public transit, and nearly 3% walked or bicycled.
Working from home is becoming more common. From 2007 to 2017, people reporting to work from home increased from 5.7 million to 8 million, a 40% increase.
Roughly half of all urban collectors (roads with speed limits of 35-55 miles per hour) traveled some 223 billion miles in 2017 were rated as unacceptably bumpy by a measure of road roughness (Fig. 120). One-quarter of urban arterials, traveled some 1.1 trillion miles by urban drivers in 2017 with speed limits of 50-70 miles, were rated unacceptable. This urban road trend has held steady for the last decade. Rural roads remain in better shape than urban ones. Conversely, bridges have seen a significant decrease in structural deficiencies over time.
Since the 1990s, delays per commuter have increased, reaching a peak just before 2009. As of 2014, delays remained relatively level at 42 hours per commuter (Fig. 121).