Weather plays a role, but not necessarily in the way you’d think. People are more likely to drive to work where the weather is warm (0.32) and less likely to use transit (-0.19), bike (-0.23), and walk (-.34) to work. So the way we commute is more closely related to demographic and economic characteristics of metros than to their climate and weather.
The way we get to work is also related to our political cleavages. On the one hand, commuters in more progressive metros—those where Hillary Clinton got a bigger share of votes in the 2016 election—are more likely to walk (0.44), bike (0.44), or use transit (0.59), and less likely to drive to work alone (-0.36). Commuters in more conservative metros, where a larger share voted for Trump, are more likely to drive to work alone (0.44). This reflects the fact, though, that more liberal metros tend also to be denser, more affluent, and more educated.
Our commuting patterns are associated with key dimensions of what I dub the new urban crisis. Housing is less affordable, inequality greater, and economic segregation higher in places where commuters are less dependent on the car. Median housing costs are positively and significantly associated with transit (0.59), biking (0.48), carpooling (0.49), and walking (0.38) to work, and so are income inequality and economic segregation. These associations again reflect the fact that denser, more affluent, educated metros are more expensive, more unequal, and more segregated.
Our analysis shows a country and a people divided in how they get to work. Americans cleave into two distinct nations based on commuting: One, based in smaller, less advantaged, and more sprawling metros, depends on the car, while the other, based in large, denser, more advantaged, and more educated metros, uses a variety of alternative modes. Driving to work alone in a car is negatively and significantly associated with each and every alternative mode, especially so with biking (-0.47) or walking to work (-0.53).
This pattern also comes through in a statistical cluster analysis that Mellander did, which looks at how different types of commuting styles cluster together. One distinct cluster reflects metros where a larger share of commuters drive to work alone; a second reflects metros where larger shares of commuters walk and bike to work; and a third reflects metros where a larger share of commuters carpool and work from home.
Differences in how we commute are baked deeply into our economic geography. Larger, denser metros tend to have the most extensive transit networks, and tend to be where more affluent and educated people have opted to locate close to work in the city center or along transit lines. Smaller, more sprawling metros tend to be less educated and less affluent; they also often have less congested roads and are easier to navigate in a car.We are cleaving into two nations—one where people’s daily lives revolve around the car, and the other where the car is receding in favor of alternative modes like walking, biking, and transit. Little wonder that bike lanes have emerged as a symbol of gentrification and “the war on cars” has become a way to call out the so-called urban elite.CityLab editorial fellow Nicole Javorsky contributed research and editorial assistance to this article.
For a Better Economy, Add Commuter Rail?, STEPHEN MILLER, AUG 10, 2016
Let’s Rethink What a ‘Bike Lane’ Is ANDREW SMALL AUG 24, 2018