Pittsburgh is the 7th least car-dependent metro in America, study says | News | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Pittsburgh is the 7th least car-dependent metro in America, study says

click to enlarge A pedestrian crossing a bridge in Pittsburgh, Pa. - CP PHOTO: JARED WICKERHAM
CP photo: Jared Wickerham
A pedestrian crossing a bridge in Pittsburgh, Pa.
Contrary to public perception, Pittsburgh is considered one of the least car-dependent regions in the U.S.

Last year, a report ranked Pittsburgh the 11th-best metro in the country to live without a car and the region consistently has one of the highest rates of commuters who walk to work.

Now, a new study from website CompareCarInsurance.com ranks Pittsburgh as the seventh least car-dependent metro in the U.S.


Researchers at the website analyzed data from the Federal Highway Administration’s National Household Transportation Survey and the U.S Census Bureau’s American Community Survey. They looked at average annual miles per driver, average annual miles per vehicle, the share of workers who commute by car, and the share of workers in households with two or more vehicles.

The national average for miles per year per driver is 11,621; Pittsburgh came in at 9,571. When it came to annual average miles per vehicle, Pittsburgh had the second-lowest number to Seattle, the least car-dependent metro in the country.
click to enlarge CP ILLUSTRATION: ABBIE ADAMS
CP illustration: Abbie Adams
These low annual miles traveled appeared to boost Pittsburgh in the rankings, as it bested some metros with much larger shares of commuters not using cars, but those places tended to have much longer car commutes, like Washington, D.C. Pittsburgh is home to very concentrate job centers, as Downtown and Oakland are the second and third biggest job centers in Pennsylvania, and contain hundreds of thousands of jobs in relatively small areas. Basically, Pittsburghers have shorter commutes, so even if more of them choose to commute by car, they might not have to and are thus are classified as less dependent.

About 85% of Pittsburghers commute by car, which may sound high but is actually lower than dozens of the other metros included in the study. Pittsburgh was the sole mid-size Rust Belt city included in the top 10 least car-dependent metros. Other metros of comparable size were actually extremely car-dependent, with Cincinnati and Detroit both among the most car-dependent regions in America.

However, most other metros not reliant on cars had much better public transit riders rates and better bike commuting rates. Though the Port Authority announced an uptick in public transit ridership — an exception to the national trend of declining ridership — only about 9% of Allegheny County residents commute via public transit. Bike commuters in the city of Pittsburgh amount for about 2% of commuters, compared to about 6% in Portland, Ore. (Pittsburgh officials recently released a new bike master plan in hopes of growing those figures.) And, of city commuters, the rates of commuting in a vehicle alone have increased slightly over the last several years.

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