This is an excerpt from EERE Network News, a weekly electronic newsletter.

June 12, 2002

U.S. Census Shows Work Commute Times Getting Longer

New data from the 2000 U.S. Census show that workers in the United States are enduring longer commutes, and fewer of them are able to use transit, walking, or other means to avoid the drive. The average trip to work in 2000 took 25.5 minutes, up more than three minutes since 1990, and a higher portion of commuters are driving alone to work.

Although the new data appears to conflict with a recent report that showed a growth in the use of mass transit, the disparity is due to the fact that the majority of trips in the United States are not related to the work commute. Also, the growth in mass transit has occurred over the past six years. Before 1996, mass transit was steadily declining in the United States. The census numbers, of course, compare 2000 to 1990. Over that time period, mass transit grew about 6.4 percent. See the press release from the Surface Transportation Policy Project.

The census news was followed on June 10th by a well-timed report from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) that shows better urban design can reduce auto use and relieve the traffic congestion and pollution that come with it. The peer-reviewed report examined 3,000 neighborhoods in the San Francisco, Los Angeles and Chicago metropolitan areas, and found a direct link between the amount people drive and city attributes like neighborhood density, transit access, and pedestrian- and bicycle-friendliness. According to the authors, those attributes measure an area's "location efficiency" - the more efficient the location, the less people drive. See the NRDC press release.

Realizing that urban transportation is a worldwide problem, the Shell Foundation and the World Resources Institute (WRI) announced in late May the formation of "EMBARQ," the WRI Center for Transport and the Environment. Based in Washington, D.C., and launched with a $3.75 million five-year grant from the Shell Foundation, the new center will seek ways to ease traffic congestion and improve air quality in cities in developing countries, where air pollution has a devastating impact on public health. See the EMBARQ Web site.