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Buckle Up: Commuter Car Usage Growing in America’s Largest Cities


Across the top 10 US cities by population, a growing share of commuters are utilizing private vehicles as their primary mode of transportation. In the five years ending 2021, eight of the top ten metros saw higher rates of private automobile utilization for commuters getting to work.

With its dense public transportation network, New York City maintains the lowest share of automobile commuters (65.3%) amongst the major metros by a wide margin (21.3 percentage points below the next metro, Washington, DC). However, New York also saw the most significant jump in the private automobile share of commuters over the past five years of data. Between 2016 and 2021, 7.0% of New York MSA commuters shifted from public- or micro-transit solutions to private automobiles. Following closely behind and also seeing sizeable shifts towards driving to work were Washington, DC (+6.9%), Chicago (+5.6%), and Philadelphia (+4.5%). Only two tracked metros — Dallas (-0.4%) and Houston (-0.6%) — saw a declining share of commuters getting to work via private automobiles.


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