New Census Data Suggests Growing Transit Use Statewide – but Not in Boston or Cambridge

Pioneer Valley Transit Authority buses at the Springfield Union Station in July 2017. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons user Newflyer504, licensed under Creative Commons.
Pioneer Valley Transit Authority buses at the Springfield Union Station in July 2017. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons user Newflyer504, licensed under Creative Commons.

Newly-released estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey suggest that Massachusetts residents are turning away from single-occupant motor vehicle use for their daily commutes, and more likely to use public transit to get to work – except in the state’s most transit-accessible cities.

In raw numbers, however, the total number of single-occupant-vehicle commuters still grew statewide, because of overall population growth.

In the core cities of Boston and Cambridge, rates of transit use for work commutes appear to be declining, although they remain well above the statewide average.

In Boston, an estimated 32.2 of workers used the T to commute in 2018, down from 34 percent in 2014.

An estimated 25.6 percent of Cambridge workers used transit to get to work in 2018, compared to 29.7 percent in 2014.

The estimates released today reflect the results of demographic surveys conducted over the course of 2018. Margins of errors for these figures are large enough that some of the smaller year-to-year changes are likely to be the result of sampling errors. Nevertheless, the estimates represent our best guess about how commuting behavior is changing over time.

Statewide estimates for residents’ means of transportation to work

Massachusetts 2014 2016 2018
Total 3,396,137 3,504,937 3,558,966
Drove alone 2,418,818 71.22% 2,457,107 70.10% 2,482,764 69.76%
Carpoolers 251,628 7.41% 267,156 7.62% 264,744 7.44%
Transit 332,765 9.80% 354,611 10.12% 363,460 10.21%
Walk 165,363 4.87% 168,580 4.81% 181,070 5.09%
Taxi/Motorcycle/Bike 64,035 1.89% 77,394 2.21% 78,380 2.20%
Worked from home 163,528 4.82% 180,089 5.14% 188,548 5.30%

Estimates for City of Boston residents’ means of transportation to work

Boston 2014 2016 2018
Total 337,826 362,198 376,159
Drove alone 131,335 38.88% 142,554 39.36% 144,793 38.49%
Carpooled 19,282 5.71% 24,100 6.65% 23,139 6.15%
Transit 114,692 33.95% 118,670 32.76% 120,995 32.17%
Walked 48,357 14.31% 49,069 13.55% 57,938 15.40%
Taxi/Motorcycle/Bike 12,786 3.78% 16,488 4.55% 15,266 4.06%
Worked from home 11,374 3.37% 11,317 3.12% 14,028 3.73%

Estimates for City of Cambridge residents’ means of transportation to work

Cambridge 2014 2016 2018
Total 62,785 62,260 69,885
Drove alone 16,146 25.72% 16,525 26.54% 18,081 25.87%
Carpooled 2,627 4.18% 1,808 2.90% 2,705 3.87%
Transit 18,648 29.70% 19,578 31.45% 17,866 25.56%
Walked 15,625 24.89% 15,969 25.65% 19,291 27.60%
Taxi/Motorcycle/Bike 4,994 7.95% 4,502 7.23% 7,242 10.36%
Worked from home 4,745 7.56% 3,878 6.23% 4,700 6.73%

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