Transportation to Work

How are we doing?

Percent of Residents Bicycling to Work (2019)



In 2019, 1.5% of residents in the Tucson Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) reported bicycling to work. This ranked Tucson second among peer western metropolitan areas. While driving alone is the primary mode of transportation to work for most Americans, other modes such as bicycling, walking, carpooling, and public transportation have the potential to reduce congestion and mitigate the impact that driving alone has on the roadways. Those who drove alone in Tucson represented 76.8% of the population, while 10.0% of Tucson residents carpooled to work. Carpooling rates in Tucson have decreased since 2000 by nearly five percentage points, while the rate of those driving alone increased by three percentage points.

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 2019, 76.8% of residents in the Tucson MSA reported driving alone as their primary means of transportation to work. This ranked Tucson seventh among 12 western MSAs, of which the Portland MSA ranked first, with the lowest percentage of commuters driving alone at 70.3%. El Paso ranked last with the highest percentage, at 80.7%. Portland was five percentage points ahead of its closest peer, Denver. Tucson and the state of Arizona were just slightly ahead of the U.S. with the percentage of commuters driving alone.

The Tucson MSA posted a rate of 1.5% of commuters bicycling to work in 2019, outperforming Arizona and the U.S. by 0.7 and 1.0 percentage points, respectively. Driving alone accounted for more than 76.0% of commuters 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 1.9%, respectively, in comparison to 2.7% for the nation.

What are the key trends?

The percentage of commuters driving alone has increased across Tucson, Arizona, and the U.S. since 2000. Tucson’s increase of three percentage points between 2000 and 2019 of those driving alone was larger than increases posted by the state of Arizona (2.3) and the nation (0.6). The increased rates of commuters driving alone in Tucson and Arizona track closely with the national level of 76.4%.

In 2019, the mean commute time for the Tucson MSA was 24.9 minutes, slightly shorter than the statewide average for Arizona at 25.7 minutes. Both Tucson and Arizona enjoy shorter commute times than the national average of 26.9 minutes. Commute times in Tucson and Arizona 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.