Driving Alone: How Do Residents in Your Neighborhood Get to Work?

Alan Hoogasian, Research Economist

In 2015, 76.6% of Tucson Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) commuters cited driving alone as their primary means of transportation to work. Carpooling was second at 9.9%, and working at home was third at 4.6%. The prevalence of single-occupant vehicle usage is not unique to Tucson. Statewide, the figure for driving alone was 76.5%, while the U.S. rate was 76.4%.

Data on means of transportation to work are a measure of infrastructure performance that highlights the travel options and behavior patterns of a region’s commuters. Commuter patterns are driven by urban design, access to jobs and housing, and neighborhood preference (Schwanen and Mokhtarian, 2005). Driving alone is a characteristic of low-density, sprawling urban development where employment may concentrate in a Central Business District. Conversely, the use of public transit, biking, and walking are associated with compact, intermodal, mixed use development.

Figure 1 below is an interactive map that shows the share of residents driving alone by census tract in the Tucson MSA. Darker shades indicate higher percentages of driving alone with a high concentration in the suburbs. For example, driving alone exceeds 90% in many census tracts in Marana, Oro Valley, and Sahuarita. Lower percentages are found near the downtown and University centers, where driving alone can be as low as 35.3%. As one might expect, high rates of public transportation usage, walking, and biking are concentrated in the same areas.

The map can also display the percentage of commuters by other travel modes. Select a travel mode from the Layer List in the left sidebar to update the display. You can also click on an individual tract for more information. If you would like to select a custom area, for example, to view commuter trends in your neighborhood use the Draw Rectangle tool in the left sidebar. This will display results for the custom selected area in a table and a pie chart (scroll down). Press Clear Selection to start over.

Figure 1: Interactive Map Showing Mode of Transportation by Census Tract in Tucson

Interested in more transportation data and analysis on the Tucson MSA? Head over to the Pima Association of Governments website for interactive web maps on topics such as Tucson Bikeways or Traffic Counts. Planning a visit in your hybrid vehicle? Find a place to fill up with the Alternative Fuel Station Locator map.


Carruthers, J. I., & Ulfarsson, G. F. (2003). Urban sprawl and the cost of public services. Environment and Planning B: Planning and Design, 30(4), 503-522.