My family and I are gearing up for about 3,000 miles of driving while on vacation over the next week and a half. I don’t like driving that much, so I was thinking about other ways I could have reduced fuel consumption and energy use for my trip. It turns out that the car is probably the most energy efficient and practical way to go.
We drive a Honda Civic. It gets about 30 MPG in the city, 35 MPG on freeways, and sometimes up to 38 MPG if I’m doing 60 MPH for a long time on a road like US-30 in Indiana. The car will be pretty full on this trip and we’ll be driving faster than normal in the wide open spaces of South Dakota and Wyoming, but even if we get 30 MPG on average, we’ll be getting 90 passenger-miles per gallon for the three of us. This works out to 1,389 BTU per passenger-mile according to calculations from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (see the notes at the bottom). How does that compare to other modes? From the same BTS table:
|Our Car with 3 Passengers||1389|
|Our Car with 1 Passenger||4167|
|Air (Domestic Operations)||2931|
Even the average motorcycle and Amtrak train can’t compare to the energy efficiency of putting three people in a small sedan. This fact seems to be often overlooked by people like me who promote the virtues of transit on a daily basis. Perhaps transportation planners need to think much harder about how to promote car-pooling as an integral part of our transportation and energy solutions. Nearly every MPO has a ride-share program, and there are a couple of web sites that try to connect people, but is that really enough? What else can be done to promote car-pooling? What metropolitan areas are already doing well?
To try to answer these questions, I turned to the US Census. The following table shows overall car-pool mode share for journey to work trips and the percentage of auto commuters car-pooling in the 50 largest US metropolitan statistical areas. The data source is the 2006-2008 US Census American Community Survey.
|Pop Rank||Metropolitan statistical area||Car-Pool Work Trip Mode Share||Car-Pool Commuters / All Auto Commuters|
|14||Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA||14.6%||16.1%|
|35||Austin-Round Rock, TX||13.3%||15.2%|
|48||Salt Lake City, UT||12.7%||14.4%|
|13||San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont, CA||10.1%||13.9%|
|6||Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown, TX||12.6%||13.9%|
|46||New Orleans-Metairie-Kenner, LA||12.2%||13.5%|
|2||Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana, CA||11.4%||13.4%|
|30||Las Vegas-Paradise, NV||11.8%||13.1%|
|28||San Antonio, TX||11.9%||13.1%|
|1||New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island, NY-NJ-PA||7.4%||12.8%|
|17||San Diego-Carlsbad-San Marcos, CA||10.9%||12.7%|
|4||Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX||11.5%||12.6%|
|9||Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta, GA||10.9%||12.4%|
|44||Oklahoma City, OK||11.0%||11.8%|
|21||Denver-Aurora-Broomfield, CO /1||10.1%||11.8%|
|31||San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA||9.8%||11.3%|
|7||Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach, FL||10.0%||11.3%|
|36||Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC||9.8%||11.0%|
|42||Louisville/Jefferson County, KY-IN||10.1%||10.9%|
|19||Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL||9.5%||10.6%|
|29||Kansas City, MO-KS||9.3%||10.1%|
|37||Providence-New Bedford-Fall River, RI-MA||9.0%||10.0%|
|16||Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI||8.7%||10.0%|
|18||St. Louis, MO-IL||9.0%||9.9%|
|39||Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis, WI||8.7%||9.7%|
|50||Buffalo-Niagara Falls, NY||8.4%||9.4%|
|45||Hartford-West Hartford-East Hartford, CT||8.2%||9.1%|
First, let’s note that of the Columbus is ranked 49 out of 50, right above Cleveland, so obviously there is room to improve. Second, population rank doesn’t seem to correlate well, so it’s probably not about traffic in large cities or the high cost of parking.
I tested the route-miles of high-occupancy-vehicle (HOV) facilities per capita too. That correlates a little better, but it’s still not a strong relationship:
So what gets people to car-pool? Any ideas?
How can Columbus specifically increase its car-pool percentage? Should there be HOV lanes on the freeways? Should there be some kind of parking incentives? Do employers need to take a more active role?