Home-to-Work Commute Profile, United States, 1977-2017

Home-to-Work Commute Profile, United States, 1977-2017

Source: U.S. Department of Transportation, BTS.

Home-to-work commuting profiles are a core dimension of urban mobility since they represent employment and revenue generation movements. They include the length, time, and speed of a commute, which underline an increasingly challenging context for urban mobility, particularly after 1995. Beforehand, commuting was generally improving in terms of speed, even if the average commuting distance was increasing. The suburbanization of housing and employment took place quickly, but its impacts on congestion remained marginal.

From the 1990s, the context started to shift rapidly with a vicious circle of congestion, implying longer trips as well as a longer duration of those trips. In several large American cities, a process of space/time divergence is taking place with a growing amount of time spent traveling a similar distance. The average commuting speed has been steadily decreasing. How far this process will go remains uncertain since, at some level of congestion, there are pressures to improve infrastructure as well as to develop alternatives such as public transit.