Americans are spending less time commuting than they used to do. That’s the finding of a new Pew summary of research on America’s commuting habits:
Nationwide, the percentage of workers who commute by car declined from 88 percent in 2000 to 86 percent in 2010-2013, according to a Stateline analysis of census numbers. Car commuting percentages were down dramatically in some urban areas, but also in smaller Western towns that are making a focused effort to promote alternatives.The places with the most dramatic declines include the District of Columbia, where the rate declined 11 percentage points to 39 percent; the Bronx, New York, where it was down 9 percentage points to 28 percent; and Hudson County, New Jersey (home of Jersey City), where it was down 8 percentage points to 47 percent.
The story mentions a number of factors, including increases in the number of people living and working in walkable areas as well as improved public transportation systems. But one thing it does not mention is the rise of telecommuting. According to one study, the number of companies allowing their employees to telework has increased from 23 percent to 38 percent in the last six years. That seems like a relevant figure to incorporate into any analysis of waning commuting. Thanks to the computer, those dense, walkable communities aren’t the only places that can hope to decrease commuting; employees can telecommutes just as easily from the suburbs as from anywhere else.The rise of telecommuting is an important but often underreported story. Telecommuting reduces emissions and helps kill the physical commute, thereby allowing people to enjoy the suburban life so many of them still want without many of the costs its imposes.