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For Immediate Release: Thursday, April 01, 2021

New Census Report Shows Public Transportation Commuters Concentrated in Large Metro Areas of the United States

Press Release Number CB21-TPS.35

APRIL 1, 2021 — A new report released today by the U.S. Census Bureau shows that 70% of the nation’s public transportation commuters live in one of the seven largest metropolitan areas. The report describes the distribution of public transportation commuters across different transit modes and summarizes key geographic, demographic and historical trends. About 5% of all U.S. workers in 2019 commuted by public transportation. Although it is a relatively uncommon method of traveling to work in the United States as a whole, transit played a prominent role in certain places. 

Report highlights:

  • The largest group of public transportation commuters (46.3% of all public transportation commuters, or about 3.6 million people) reported the bus as their primary commuting mode. Subway or elevated rail was the next most-common mode (37.7%), followed by long-distance train or commuter rail (11.8%); light rail, streetcar or trolley (3.1%); and ferryboat (1.0%).
  • In the largest cities of U.S. metro areas, 11.5% of workers commuted by transit. Roughly 3 million of the nation’s 7.8 million public transportation commuters lived in the New York metro area.  
  • A larger percentage of women (5.2%) than men (4.7%) used public transportation to commute in 2019.
  • The percentage of workers who commuted by public transportation varied by region. The Northeast had the highest share of workers who commuted by transit, at 14.3%, followed by the West (4.4%), the Midwest (3.0%), and the South (2.0%).
  • The percentage of U.S. workers commuting by public transportation fell from 12.1% in 1960 to around 5.0% in 2019.

The data in this report are based on 2019 American Community Survey (ACS), 1-year estimates. Interviews took place from Jan. 1, 2019, through Dec. 31, 2019. ACS travel questions focus only on commuting and do not include nonwork trips.

No news release associated with this report. Tip sheet only.



Mike Friedrich
Public Information Office

Page Last Revised - October 8, 2021
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