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Transportation by Car…or Not


NonCarTransByMSA-1990-2013The East-West Gateway Council of Governments has produced a very interesting map showing the change in non-car transportation in Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) throughout the United States. The map is shown at right.

(Click on map for larger view.)

Non-car transportation means everybody who gets to work using some other method than driving in a car. It could be subway or light rail, bus, bicycle, motorcycle, walking, or perhaps some method you think of that I don’t (Beam me up, Mr. Scott!).

On the map, the grey box at bottom right shows that the percentage of commuters using non-car transportation declined by 0.63% across the nation as a whole. Pink and red areas show areas where the percentage of commuters using something other than a car declined. Dark red shows the areas where it declined the most. Green shows areas where the percentage of commuters using something other than a car increased. The dark green shows where it increased the most. No Missouri MSA is green, they are all pink.

Transportation is not one of the environmental areas I have selected as a main focus for this blog. However, cars are one of the primary consumers of energy, and they are one of the primary emitters of carbon dioxide, the cause of global warming. Those are major concerns of this blog.

I can’t take analysis of the map too far. The green areas often coincide with the nation’s most progressive cities, but not always: what should one make of the green MSAs in Dalton and Rome, Georgia, in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, or in The Villages (Sumter County), Florida? It is similarly difficult to make sense of the dark red areas. New Orleans maybe shows the effect of Hurricaine Katrina, but what happened near Pocatello, Idaho, Manhattan, Kansas, Hinesville, Georgia, and Jacksonville, North Carolina?

I’m tempted to say the dark green and dark red relate to local factors that impacted local transit systems. But there is so much pink! It looks to me like a national trend that only some regions reversed.

Could Missouri’s decline in non-car commuting have something to do with sprawl? Public transit works best in compact areas, and the sprawl may be undermining our public transit systems. I reported on sprawl in Missouri in September. (Here.)

The map from EWGCG doesn’t say what is going on. It would be a great topic for a research paper!


“Map of the Month,” East West Gateway Council of Governments website. The map does not yet seem to be listed in the catalog of their map library. It’s direct url is: http://www.ewgateway.org/pdffiles/maplibrary/NonCarTransByMSA-1990-2013.pdf.

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