Special Report

The Cities Where No One Wants to Drive

7. New Haven, Conn.
> Pct. of households without a vehicle: 30.1%
> Pct. commuting to work via public transportation: 9.6% (70th highest)
> Metropolitan area: New Haven-Milford, CT
> Population: 130,654

New Haven was one of only a handful of U.S. cities where residents were more likely to walk to work than take public transit. While less than 10% of commuters used public transportation, 14.5% of commuters walked to work — the fifth highest rate in the nation. New Haven residents were still much more likely than most Americans to use public transit. However, while better access via public transit improves access to employment opportunities, 11.2% of New Haven’s workforce was unemployed in 2013, much higher than the national rate of 7.4%. The Connecticut Department of Transportation’s I-95 NHHC Corridor Improvement Program is intended to improve traffic flow through the New Haven area, and includes commuter rail enhancements. The project is currently underway, and will likely improve public transit service and benefit the more than 30% of carless New Haven households.

6. Philadelphia, Pa.
> Pct. of households without a vehicle: 31.5%
> Pct. commuting to work via public transportation: 27.2% (13th highest)
> Metropolitan area: Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-MO
> Population: 1,553,165

The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) maintains rail, trolley, and bus routes throughout the Philadelphia region, including the more than 100 bus stations. There were nearly 1,300 people per square mile in Philadelphia in 2010, making the city one of the most densely populated in the country. Perhaps as a result of the high concentration of people and businesses, more than 27% of commuters used SEPTA to commute to work as of 2013, among the highest proportions nationwide. As in other cities with high proportions of carless households, Philadelphia residents were not especially wealthy. The city had a median household income of less than $37,000 in 2013, versus a typical American household’s income of $52,250.

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5. Reading, Pa.
> Pct. of households without a vehicle: 31.7%
> Pct. commuting to work via public transportation: 8.5% (79th highest)
> Metropolitan area: Reading, PA
> Population: 87,894

Compared with other cities with high percentages of carless households, Reading residents were not as likely to use public transit, with 8.5% of commuters doing so in 2013. However, this was still higher than the national rate of 5.2%. While Reading commuters were more likely to drive to work, 21% opted to carpool, the fifth highest proportion among large U.S. cities and more than double the national carpool rate of 9.4%. The high cost of owning a car has likely prevented many area households from owning one. Reading had a poverty rate of nearly 40% in 2013, a higher rate than in all but a handful of U.S. cities. And the unemployment rate of 10.5% was far higher than the national rate of 7.4% that year.