Transportation to Work

How are we doing?

Percent of Residents Carpooling to Work (2016)

In 2016, 9.9% of residents in the Tucson Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) reported carpooling to work. This ranked Tucson seventh, tied with Austin, among peer western metropolitan areas. While driving alone is the primary mode of transportation to work for most Americans, carpooling has the potential to reduce congestion and mitigate the impact that driving alone has on the roadways. Those who drove alone in Tucson represented 76.5% of the population, while 1.8% of Tucson residents commuted to work by bicycle. Carpooling rates in Tucson have decreased since 2009 by two percentage points, while the rate of those driving alone increased by just over one percentage point.

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.

The duration of one’s journey to work, as well as how they get there, reflects both quality of life and economic well-being for a region. Longer commute times are often indicative of a spatial mismatch between jobs and housing – a phenomenon that can especially impact low-income households, as their geographic mobility may be limited. Long commute times can also result from high housing costs, poorly planned transportation networks, and local regulatory policies such as exclusionary zoning.

How do we compare?

In 2016, 76.5% of residents in the Tucson 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 70.4%. Albuquerque ranked last with the highest percentage, at 80.4%. Portland was 4.6 percentage points ahead of its closest peer, the Salt Lake City MSA. Tucson and the state of Arizona were just slightly behind the U.S. with the percentage of commuters driving alone.

The Tucson MSA posted a rate of 1.8% of commuters bicycling to work in 2016, 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 10.9% - 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 2.3% 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 2.7 percentage points in the Tucson MSA, climbing from 73.8% to 76.5% between 2000 and 2016. During the same period, Arizona and the U.S. experienced increases of 2.6 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%.

In 2016, the mean commute time for the Tucson MSA was 24.4 minutes, slightly shorter than the statewide average for Arizona at 24.9 minutes. Both Tucson and Arizona enjoy shorter commute times than the national average of 26.1 minutes. Commute times in Tucson, Arizona, and the U.S. have seen little change since 2000.

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. Note that the ACS five-year estimates are produced over a five year time period and can only be compared to non-overlapping five-year estimates (for example: 2005-2009 and 2010-2014). 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.