If you look around St. Louis streets during morning or evening rush hour, you will probably notice that most vehicles have a single occupant. In St. Louis, most people drive alone to work. With low-congestion, low gas prices, and low population density, driving alone is a flexible and convenient option for most commuters in our region. It is the preferred mode of travel across all counties, races, and generations in the St. Louis region.
However, reducing single occupancy vehicles is one option for reducing congestion and emissions, and for improving air quality. Providing more transportation choices is also one of the guiding principles of East-West Gateway Council of Government’s long-range transportation plan, Connected2045. In addition, current federal transportation law requires departments of transportation and metropolitan planning organizations, including East-West Gateway, to establish a target for increasing non-single occupancy vehicle travel.
At the Board of Directors meeting on June 27, East-West Gateway presented the latest update in its Where We Stand (WWS) series. This series ranks the St. Louis Metropolitan Statistical Area among the 50 largest metropolitan regions in the country. The latest WWS Update looks at data on non-single occupancy vehicle (non-SOV) travel, which includes walking, biking, carpooling, taking public transit, and telecommuting.
In 2016, St. Louis had one of the lowest rates of non-SOV travel among its peer regions. Around one out of every six commuters in St. Louis travel to work using non-SOV modes. This ranks 41st out of the 50 peer regions. The majority of non-SOV commuters in the St. Louis region either carpool or work from home. Over the last few decades, there has been a decrease in carpooling and an increase in people working from home.
Within the region, carpooling is most commonly used in Jefferson and Franklin counties, and telecommuting is most common in St. Charles and Monroe counties. A small percentage of commuters in the region bike, walk, or take public transportation to work, although these three modes are most frequently used in the city of St. Louis and in St. Louis and St. Clair counties.
The WWS Update also analyzes the commuting behaviors of different population groups in the region, including generational and racial groups.
The Millennial generation has received a lot of attention for their commuting behaviors, but in St. Louis, Millennials are just as likely to drive alone as older generations. Compared with older generations, Millennials who don’t drive alone to work are a little more likely to carpool, take public transportation, or walk to work, and older generations are more likely to work from home.
Driving alone is also the most common travel mode across all racial and ethnic groups in the region. However, in St. Louis, black households are over four times as likely to lack access to a vehicle as white households. Carpooling is the predominant non-SOV mode of white commuters, whereas public transportation is the predominant non-SOV mode for black commuters.
For more detailed information on these differences, check out the full report.
While driving alone is presently the predominant commute mode in the St. Louis region, there is a lot of excitement surrounding the potential impact of new transportation technologies, including autonomous vehicles, ride sharing, and bike sharing. The impact of these new developments on non-SOV travel, however, is still uncertain.
Access this most recent WWS Update, an accompanying appendix, and other reports in the Where We Stand series on East-West Gateway’s website.