Transportation to Work

How are we doing?

In 2015, 76.6% of workers in the Tucson Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) reported driving alone as their primary means of transportation to work. This ranked Tucson sixth among 12 western MSAs, of which the Portland MSA ranked first, with the lowest percentage of commuters driving alone at 70.5%. Albuquerque ranked last with the highest percentage, at 80.3%. While most MSAs were within 3.0 percentage points of the average, Portland was 4.7 percentage points ahead of its closest peer, the Salt Lake City MSA. Tucson was tied with the state of Arizona and just slightly behind the U.S. with the percentage of commuters driving alone. Tucson did, however, outperform Arizona and the U.S. in the percentage of commuters bicycling to work (1.8%). Public transportation usage was lower in Tucson and Arizona than the U.S.

Why is it important?

The prevalence of driving alone, as the primary mode of transportation to work for most Americans has had tremendous economic, social, and environmental consequences for our nation. In an effort to mitigate these effects, recent transportation-authorization bills have required state transportation agencies to incorporate multimodal considerations into all new transportation planning and programming, through the Intermodal Surface Transportation Equity Act of 1991. Subsequent bills have expanded existing efforts, and created new programs to foster alternative transportation options and decrease highway congestion. Examples include limiting the addition of single-occupant vehicle capacity, and increasing funding for public transit, bicycling, and walking facilities.

How do we compare?

In 2015, the Tucson MSA posted a rate of 1.8% of commuters bicycling to work, outperforming Arizona and the U.S. by 0.8 and 1.2 percentage points, respectively. Driving accounted for more than 76.0% of commutes in Tucson, the state of Arizona, and the U.S. The state posted a higher rate of commuters by carpool than Tucson or the U.S., at 11.1% - nearly two percentage points ahead of the U.S. Tucson and Arizona were behind the U.S. in the percentage of commuters walking to work, at 2.5% and 2.0%, respectively, in comparison to 2.8% for the nation.

What are the key trends?

 The percentage of commuters driving alone has increased across all comparison geographies since 2000. The greatest increase was 2.8 percentage points in the Tucson MSA, climbing from 73.8% to 76.6% between 2000 and 2015. During the same period, Arizona and the U.S. experienced increases of 2.4 and 0.7 percentage points, respectively. The increased rate of commuters driving alone in Tucson and Arizona now tracks closely with national levels, near 76.4%.

How is it measured?

Transportation-to-work data are from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS) five-year estimates. The ACS is a nationwide rolling sample survey that produces one-year and five-year estimates on demographic, social, housing, and economic measures. Data used include the percent of total travelers to work, by mode of transportation: drove alone, carpooled, public transportation, walked, bicycle, taxi or other and worked at home.