Did You Know?

Bus riders account for more than 20 percent of people using Lake Shore Drive every day while taking up a fraction of the space that cars do.

Walking, biking and transit still far behind cars for commutes in Chicagoland

The Institute for Quality Communities recently reported on the most recent 2012 census bureau estimates for how people travel to work, and they found that the city of Chicago ranks 6th among large U.S. cities for the percentage of people either biking (1.6 percent), walking (6.9 percent) or riding transit (26.3 percent). /

Chicago’s 34.8 percent total is far behind New York City (67 percent), Washington DC (54.6 percent), Boston (52.1 percent) and San Francisco (46.7 percent).

One thing is clear: with cars accounting for roughly 65 percent of work trips, Chicago is falling well short of our peer cities and of the Active Transportation Alliance’s goal of a 50 percent biking/walking/transit mode share.

Looking at Chicago plus the suburbs, our region’s over-dependence on cars is even more striking: only 15.1 percent of commuters bike (0.7 percent), walk (3.3 percent) or use transit (11.1 percent). It’s no wonder our roads are so congested!

With the percentage of trips by walking and transit roughly unchanged in recent years, the bright spot has been rapid growth in cycling. We know that bike commuting is growing rapidly, having been way below one percent not long ago, and we suspect this 2012 estimate is underreported. Certainly in parts of Chicago, the percentage is much higher.

Moreover, the census bureau doesn’t account for combination trips. For example, some days I bike to the train, come downtown, and then Divvy to the office. Other days I bike the entire way to work and back home. I am both biking and using transit, but can only choose one of those travel modes on the census survey.

Keep in mind that the census bureau only surveys work trips. We don’t have good data for non-work trips, but in general, biking and walking tend to account for a higher percentage of non-work trips vs. work trips, while transit is a lower percentage.