Special Report

The Cities Where No One Wants to Drive

4. Boston, Mass.
> Pct. of households without a vehicle: 33.9%
> Pct. commuting to work via public transportation: 33.0% (5th highest)
> Metropolitan area: Boston-Cambridge-Newton, MA-NH
> Population: 644,710

Boston is one of the more expensive cities to live in the United States, although the city had a household median income of $53,583 in 2013, slightly higher than the national figure. Like other cities with high percentages of carless households, Boston is located in an especially dense metro area. There were more than 1,300 people per square mile in the region in 2010, a higher concentration than that of all but a handful of areas. Partly as a result, more than one-third of households did not own a vehicle in 2013 and many chose other modes of travel. More than 14% of commuters walked to work, for example, the fifth highest such proportion nationwide. And 33% used public transit, also the fifth highest share. Boston’s service likely helped residents access more job opportunities. Just 6.8% of Boston’s workforce was unemployed in 2013, lower than the national rate of 7.4%.

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3. Washington, DC
> Pct. of households without a vehicle: 37.4%
> Pct. commuting to work via public transportation: 38.5% (4th highest)
> Metropolitan area: Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV
> Population: 646,449

Unlike a majority of cities where so many do not want to drive, Washington D.C. residents were relatively well-off financially. A typical household earned $67,572 in 2013, one of the higher incomes nationwide. The relatively high proportion of the area’s workforce employed in traditionally high-paying professional and scientific positions — 24% — may account in part for the high incomes. While residents could perhaps afford to own a vehicle, 37.4% chose not to in 2013, the third highest proportion nationwide. Also, D.C.’s public transportation system is clearly a viable option for commuters, as 38.5% of commuters used the Metro in 2013, the fourth highest such percentage nationwide.

2. Hartford, Conn.
> Pct. of households without a vehicle: 40.4%
> Pct. commuting to work via public transportation: 16.7% (21st lowest)
> Metropolitan area: Hartford-West Hartford-East Hartford, CT
> Population: 125,035

Like Connecticut as a whole, Hartford residents are segregated by income much more than most Americans. Those who can afford it choose the suburbs outside the city over downtown housing. Partly as a result, Hartford had a household median income of just $27,417 in 2013 — one of the lowest incomes in the country. Also, 35.2% of people lived in poverty, well more than double the national rate of 15.8%. The labor market was also relatively weak, with a 2013 unemployment rate of 14.7%, about double the national rate. Partly as a result of the residents’ poor financial situation, more than two in five Hartford residents did not own a vehicle in 2013, second only to New York City. While the 16.7% of the area workforce using public transportation was roughly three times the national average, it was relatively low compared to other large U.S. cities.

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1. New York City, N.Y.
> Pct. of households without a vehicle: 54.4%
> Pct. commuting to work via public transportation: 56.7% (the highest)
> Metropolitan area: New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA
> Population: 8,405,837

New York City is the only U.S. city where more than half of the residents do not own a vehicle. And with 56.7% of commuters using public transportation to get to work in 2013 — also the highest proportion — most residents do not seem to need a vehicle. With relatively high-paying jobs located in Manhattan, many people from other boroughs are likely willing to make longer commutes for jobs. A January 2014 study from the University of Minnesota found jobs were more accessible by public transit in New York City than in any other U.S. city. Yet, the average travel time for New Yorkers was nearly 40 minutes in 2013, the fifth highest figure nationwide. And while many wealthy commuters do not have a car, many others choose not to have a car for financial reasons. More than one in five New York City residents lived in poverty, one of the higher rates in the country. The cost of living in New York was also roughly 22% more expensive than the average for the nation.

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