Learn More: Commute Mode


Variable Definition:
Public Transit: The percentage of the working population that primarily uses public transportation to get to and from work
Carpools: The percentage of the working population that primarily carpools to get to and from work
Drives Alone: The percentage of the working population that primarily drives alone to get to and from work
Bikes or Walks: The percentage of the working population that primarily bikes or walks to get to and from work
American Community Survey, 5 Year Estimates, Table B08301
Years Available:
2006-2010, 2007-2011, 2008-2012, 2009-2013, 2010-2014, 2011-2015, 2012-16, 2013-17, 2014-18
Geographic Unit:
Census Tract

Why is this Variable Important to Measure?

Public Transit Use
Although Los Angeles typically ranks low in public transit use when compared to other major metropolitan areas in the U.S., bus and rail systems are a key solution to consider when addressing traffic and pollution concerns in the county. For many individuals without vehicles, public transportation also serves as the only available form of transportation to and from work. In the November 2016 election, Los Angeles county voters passed Measure M, which uses a 1/2 cent sales tax increase to fund a number of transportation projects, including a massive expansion of rail transit availability across the county. Transit Ridership can be used to measure how neighborhoods with more access to public transit are using that resource. As public transit becomes more accessible across the county over time, this variable will be an important measure of effectiveness in transit planning.
Over the past 30 years, Los Angeles County has developed over 513 lane miles of HOV facilities including freeway HOV lanes, HOV access ramps, and park-and-ride lots along HOV corridors. Spanning across five counties, the HOV system in the LA metro region is one of the largest in the country. Over the next year, LA METRO plans to develop an additional 22.6 HOV lane miles.  HOV systems were developed in order to encourage people to travel by carpools, vanpools or buses by providing an incentive of more reliable travel times. Understanding the number of travelers who choose to regularly carpool to get to work can help guide transportation agencies when implementing new highway projects to determine which region could benefit most from HOV projects. Additionally, this variable provides a measure of effectiveness of highway projects. 
Drives Alone
For decades, the region has experienced crippling congestion and poor air quality attributed to excessive automobile use. Efforts to influence travel behavior, such as public transit expansion and HOV lanes, are used to support reducing energy use, emissions and congestion. Although the region has implemented and spent an exorbitant amount of money on various transportation projects, public transit and carpool use has declined in recent years.  Understanding the number of people who drive alone helps policymakers to measure the effectiveness of various transportation projects while also provide a guide to where additional measures may be needed in order to encourage reduced vehicle trips traveled (VTT).
Bikes of Walks
As traffic continues to worsen, some travelers have resorted to utilizing active transportation methods as a more reliable way to travel to work. However, pedestrian and bicycle accidents are common in a region that was built for automobiles not pedestrians. Programs such as LADOT Livable Streets have been implemented to provide safe streets that encourage mixed modal uses for transportation and recreation. Understanding the number of people who choose to bike to walk to work provides information as to where to focus efforts on improving bicycle lane safety as well as shared bicycle access and storage. Additionally, where projects have already been undertaken, this variable can be useful in measuring not only its effectiveness in encouraging active transportation but also improvements in safety conditions for riders.

Featured Data Stories

Fischer-Baum, Reuben. "How your city's public transit stacks up." FiveThirtyEight, 31 July 2014. Link
"HOV (Carpool) Lanes". LA Metro.  Link
"Livable Streets Project: Active Transportation". LA Department of Transportation. Link
"Measure M: Metro's Plan to Transform Transportation in LA." Metro, 2018. Link
Nelson, Laura J. "Next phase of the Wilshire subway receives $1.6 billion in federal funds." Los Angeles Times, 4 January 2017. Link
U.S. Department of Energy. "Effects of Travel Reduction and Efficient Driving on Transportation: Energy Use and Greenhouse Gas Emissions". 2013. Link

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