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Friday, March 14, 2014
Californians grow less reliant on cars, survey finds
Caltrans study shows walking, biking and transit use are up as auto trips fall. More young people don't have driver's licenses.
Bicycle riders gather to begin their ride at 1st and Spring streets in
downtown Los Angeles in a CicLAvia event. A Caltrans study finds that
Californians are using their cars less.
Californians aren't depending quite as heavily on cars for commutes
and errands as they did a decade ago, according to a new survey by Caltrans.
Although driving is still
by far the most dominant mode of transportation across the state,
accounting for about three-quarters of daily trips, researchers say a
decrease in car usage and a rise in walking, biking and taking transit
indicate that Californians' daily habits could be slowly changing.
What is happening in California mirrors a nationwide decline in
driving, experts say: The number of car miles driven annually peaked
about a decade ago, and the percentage of people in their teens, 20s and
30s without driver's licenses continues to grow.
Researchers said the Caltrans
findings could help cash-strapped agencies decide how better to allot
their transportation dollars.
It is "a shift with real benefits for public health that also cuts
greenhouse gases and smog-forming pollution," Mary Nichols, chairman of
the California Air Resources Board, said in a prepared statement.
From 2010 to 2012, researchers working for the California Department
of Transportation asked about 110,000 people in more than 42,000
households to record the duration and distance of every trip they took
during a random day, including running errands, going out to eat, and
commuting to work or school.
In the decade since the survey was last conducted, in 2001, the rate
of Californians walking, biking or taking transit on a typical day
doubled to 22%, according to the data. During the same time period, the
rate of Californians driving on any given day fell by about 12
From 2010 to 2012, more than 16% of daily trips were made on foot,
the study said, taking an average of 10 minutes and covering one-third
of a mile.
The average car trip in California was about 5.6 miles and took a little more than 18 minutes.
Daily trips on bicycles increased from 0.8% to 1.5% compared with the
decade before, the data said, and the average trip spanned 1.5 miles
and 18 minutes.
The average commuter rail trip, including data from Los Angeles County residents who rode the Metro Red and Purple Lines, was just under 10 miles and took nearly 24 minutes.
Nearly 8% of residents surveyed did not own a car. Statewide, households owned an average of 1.8 vehicles.
Although the decrease in driving and uptick in other forms of
transportation seems promising, the study suggests an overall drop in
the number of trips that could be cause for concern, said Brian Taylor,
the director of the UCLA Institute of Transportation Studies.
"It's not better for society if we reduce auto travel by having
people who are stuck home and can't afford to get out," Taylor said.
He said transportation planners aim to shift people from cars to
other modes of transit without reducing the total number of trips.
Typically, seeing more trips means more people are working and have
money to spend on errands and entertainment.
Taylor said vehicle trips should tick back up slightly in coming
years if the economy continues to recover and if some of the 3.7% of
Californians who are long-term unemployed find work again.
One-quarter of survey respondents did not have anyone working in the
household. Of those who weren't working, nearly four in 10 were retired
and about 15% were unemployed.