U.S. Department of Commerce

Commuting (Journey to Work)

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Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What is the difference between residence and workplace geography?
  2. How do I calculate daytime population?
  3. What does the American Community Survey (ACS) ask about commuting?
  4. Why doesn’t Census 2010 have data on commuting?
  5. What did Census 2000 ask about commuting?
  6. What does the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) ask about commuting?
  7. What does the American Housing Survey (AHS) ask about commuting?
  8. Where can I find the most recent county to county commuting flow data?
  9. I have questions about CTPP. Who can I contact?

What is the difference between residence and workplace geography?  back to top

Residence geography refers to the geographic location at which the respondent resides during the reference week.

Workplace geography refers to the geographic location of the respondent’s workplace, also referred to as “place of work”. Questions about place of work are asked of respondents who indicated that they worked at some time during the reference week. The place of work refers to the geographic location at which workers carried out their occupational activities during the reference week.

In the ACS, there are tables for residence geography and those for workplace geography. Unless the table indicates otherwise, it refers to residence-based geography. Other tables that indicate they are for workplace geography refer to the worker population who works in an area. For example, in the ACS Table B08007: SEX OF WORKERS BY PLACE OF WORK contains the number of workers living in an area crossed by sex, while ACS Table B08406: SEX OF WORKERS BY MEANS OF TRANSPORTATION TO WORK FOR WORKPLACE GEOGRAPHY contains the number of workers who work in an area crossed by sex and means of transportation to work.


How do I calculate daytime population?  back to top

See the suggested calculations on the Daytime Population data page.


What does the American Community Survey (ACS) ask about commuting?  back to top

The American Community Survey (ACS) question related to means of transportation asks respondents in the workforce, “How did the person usually get to work LAST WEEK?” Although commutes may involve multiple transportation modes (e.g., driving to a train station and then taking a train), respondents are restricted to indicating the single travel mode used for the longest distance. If the respondent commuted in a car, truck, or van, the number of persons in vehicle is asked to determine whether the commuter drove alone or carpooled.

The ACS asks respondents in the workforce how many minutes it usually takes them to get from home to work. The reported travel time refers to a one-way trip on a typical work day during the reference week. This includes time spent waiting for public transportation, picking up passengers in carpools, and time spent in other activities related to getting to work.

The ACS asks respondents in the workforce about what time they leave home to go to work. The departure time refers to the time of day that the respondent usually left home to go to work during the reference week.

The data on place of work are asked of people who indicated that they worked at some time during the reference week. The place of work refers to the geographic location at which workers carried out their occupational activities during the reference week. The exact address (number and street name) of the place of work was asked, as well as the place (city, town, or post office).

For more information on the ACS, please view the main ACS website.


Why doesn’t Census 2010 have data on commuting?  back to top

After the 2000 Decennial Census, the Long Form of the decennial census was replaced by the American Community Survey, which is conducted every year. The Short Form of the decennial census is still completed every 10 years. The 2010 Decennial Census contained 10 questions about the householder and other occupants including their race, ethnicity, and relationship to the householder. More information about the Census 2010 can be found on the Census 2010 website.


What did Census 2000 ask about commuting?  back to top

Questions related to commuting that previously appeared on the decennial census long form (2000 and prior) are now included in the ACS, and the decennial census now simply produces a count of the nation’s population and a snapshot of its most basic demographic characteristics. Several unique data products have resulted from Census 2000 commuting data.

Census 2000 question related to means of transportation asks respondents in the workforce, “How did the person usually get to work LAST WEEK?”. Although commutes may involve multiple transportation modes (e.g., driving to a train station and then taking a train), respondents are restricted to indicating the single travel mode used for the longest distance.

Census 2000 asks respondents in the workforce how many minutes it usually takes them to get from home to work. The reported travel time refers to a one-way trip on a typical work day during the reference week. This includes time spent waiting for public transportation, picking up passengers in carpools, and time spent in other activities related to getting to work.

Census 2000 asks respondents in the workforce about what time they leave home to go to work. The departure time refers to the time of day that the respondent usually left home to go to work during the reference week.

Census 2000 question on workplace location were asked of people who indicated that they worked at some time during the reference week. The place of work refers to the geographic location at which workers carried out their occupational activities during the reference week. The exact address (number and street name) of the place of work was asked, as well as the place (city, town, or post office).

More information on Census 2000 can be found on the Census 2000 website.


What does the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) ask about commuting?  back to top

The Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) contains a Poverty/Work Related Expenses topical module that includes questions on commuting expenses associated with mode of transportation to work that are asked of all respondents who are at least 15 years old and who work or own a business.

In SIPP, respondents are asked to mark all modes of transportation that they use to get to work during a typical week, except travel for which the costs to the person are reimbursed. Since respondents may have more than one job, the reported means of transportation includes all modes used in up to three jobs.

The SIPP asks respondents who drove their own vehicles to work to report how many miles, in total, they usually drove to get to and from work. This includes the number of miles driven for all jobs worked during a typical week.

The SIPP questions on parking and tolls are asked only of those respondents who reported driving their own vehicle to work. Respondents are first asked if they have to pay out-of-pocket for any parking costs or tolls. Respondents who answer yes to this question are further asked to report the dollar amount spent per week on parking and tolls.

The SIPP question on total work commuting expenses is asked of all respondents who reported a mode of transportation to work. This includes the total amount spent on work commuting costs that are not reimbursed.

For more information on SIPP, please see the main SIPP website.


What does the American Housing Survey (AHS) ask about commuting?  back to top

The American Housing Survey AHS collects commuting information from household members who are 16 and over and have worked within a week of the interview. Eligible respondents are then asked whether they usually report to the same location to begin work each day and for their principal means of transportation – the transportation type used most often and for the longest distance. Respondents commuting in trucks, vans, or cars are asked whether they drive with others. Those who do are asked how many are included in their carpool.

The AHS asks eligible respondents how many minutes it usually takes to get to work from their usual point of departure. They are asked to include time spent relating to their commute, such as waiting for public transportation or picking up others in their carpool. However, they are asked to exclude extra time taken for meals, shopping, and taking children to school. Eligible respondents are additionally asked what time they usually leave from home on their way to work.

The AHS asks eligible respondents if they worked at home any time within the last week. Those who have are asked how many days and hours they spent working from home. All eligible respondents are also asked how many self-employed hours they spent working within a week of the interview.

All questions are asked within the context of the week prior to the date of interview. For example, if a respondent normally drives a car to work, but used a train the week before the interview, they would answer the questions using the train as the basis of their commute.

After 2009, commuting questions in the AHS became a rotating module and were no longer asked in each survey cycle. More information concerning the AHS can be found on the AHS website or by calling 1-888-518-7365.


Where can I find the most recent county to county commuting flow data?  back to top

The most recent county-to-county commuting flow data can be found on the CTPP 3-Year based on the 2006-2008 American Community Survey (ACS). To access this data, see the Census Transportation Planning Products  Link to a non-federal Web site website.


I have questions about CTPP. Who can I contact?  back to top

Questions regarding CTPP should be directed to Penelope Weinberger of AASHTO at (202) 624-3556 or pweinberger@aashto.org



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Source: U.S. Census Bureau | Commuting (Journey to Work) |  Last Revised: 2013-01-29T14:56:42.52-05:00