Charts of the Week: Cars and commuting

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In this edition of Charts of the Week: commuting and cars, and the toll they can take on middle-class incomes.

Expensive housing equals longer commutes

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Neighborhoods with more affordable housing for middle class families are often farther from jobs, making commuting necessary and adding to families’ costs, observed Jenny Schuetz. She wrote that “middle-income households in expensive housing markets are more likely to have longer commutes,” adding that “only four percent of households in the cheapest metro areas have hour-long commutes.”

Americans remain reliant on cars for commuting

Figure 1: Share of all commuters by mode, 2016

Despite the alternatives, Americans still heavily rely on cars as their means of transportation to and from work. “Over 76 percent of Americans drive alone to work every day,” Adie Tomer noted, and the high “driving rates come at a real cost to American households.” Tomer said that with stalled median incomes and challenges with inclusive growth in metro areas, “driving represents a significant cost burden for many.”

Banning cars won’t solve larger transportation problems

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Americans are stuck in landscapes that require a car to be fully mobile and our car dependence, says Joseph Kane, “continues to grow.” Despite the car-free vision of new urban developments like Culdesac Tempe, Kane writes that “banning cars in a handful of neighborhoods won’t solve the larger transportation problem,” which is “the need to travel long distances to access economic opportunity.” Kane argues that we need to focus on “walkability and connectivity” to address the challenges in our transportation systems.