(ST. PAUL) -- Minnesotans' commuting habits have changed dramatically over the past few decades. More people are driving alone, the number of very long trips has increased, and more people are leaving for work at an early hour. These are some of the findings from a new report from the Minnesota State Demographic Center.
The study, based on census commuting data, shows the proportion of workers who commute in a personal vehicle rose from 74.8 percent in 1960 to 92.2 percent in 2000. In addition, those who drive are less likely to share rides. The percent of vehicle commuters in carpools fell from an estimated 28.9 percent in 1970 to 11.8 percent in 2000. Meanwhile, the percentages of workers using public transit, walking or working at home have dropped substantially.
"The findings clearly show a need for more capacity and support our priority of building long-delayed highway projects," said Lt. Governor and Transportation Commissioner Carol Molnau. "These projects will help reduce congestion and enhance statewide mobility on our highway system -- they will accommodate the need for Minnesotans to travel around town or across the state by motor vehicle," she said.
The average journey to work grew from 19.1 minutes in 1990 to 21.9 minutes in 2000. "An average increase of 2.8 minutes doesn't seem huge, but there are other things going on," said Martha McMurry, a research analyst at the State Demographic Center. One trend noted in the report was a rapid growth in the number of people with very long commutes. The number of trips requiring 90 minutes or longer doubled. In addition, many people are leaving for work earlier, either to avoid congestion or because they have farther to drive. The number of workers leaving before 6 a.m. increased much faster than the number leaving at more conventional departure times between 6:30 and 8:30 a.m.
Though the personal vehicle is by far the dominant mode of transportation for Minnesotans, there are still about 145,000 households that do not have access to a vehicle. Renters, older people, and nonwhite and Latino Minnesotans are most likely to have no vehicle.
African American Minnesotans were most reliant on public transportation to get to work, 18.0 percent. Latino workers were most likely to use carpools, 26.7 percent. By comparison, 2.6 percent of white not Latino workers used public transportation, and 10.1 percent carpooled.