Philly Among Metros With the Biggest Drop in Car Commuters

Millennials are probably partly to thank for the trend.

The Philadelphia region is one of 15 large metropolitan areas in the country that saw the steepest declines in automobile commuters in recent years. About 80.5 percent of Philly workers traveled by car to their jobs in 2013, compared to 83.1 percent in 2006, according to a new U.S. Census Bureau report.

Philly is right up there with San Fransisco, Boston, Seattle and New York City in this list.

Graphic by the U.S. Census Bureau

Chart by the U.S. Census Bureau

What’s behind the shift?

Between 2006 and 2013, SEPTA ridership increased annually by an average of 1.9 percent. Put another way, the agency’s total trips rose by more than 40 million in that time period. Regional rail ridership has been particularly robust, setting a new record of more than 36 million trips between 2012 and 2013.

Another reason for the trend may be that millennials are less likely than other adults to use a car to get to work. A recent Center City District report found that more 18- to 34-year-old Philadelphians get to their jobs by walking or biking than older generations.

Likewise, the U.S. Census Bureau looked at the commuting patterns of different age groups in 10 cities, including Philadelphia, and discovered that 25- to 29-year-old workers in particular are commuting to work by car less often than they did in past years.

“Automobile commuting rates changed little for most age groups between 2006 and 2013, but rates for younger workers, the focus of increased media attention in recent years, showed some decline,” said the report’s authors. “Workers aged 25 to 29 living in principal cities showed the largest decline in automobile commuting, from 80.6 percent in 2006 to 76.7 percent in 2013.”