NYC Residents Who Drive to Work: Homeowners, Government Employees

NYC residents who work for the government are more likely than private sector employees to drive alone to work. Source: 2011 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates, Table S0802

The Census has released a new set of data that helps shed some light on how New Yorkers get to work. Nationally, the percentage of workers driving to work alone edged down, while transit made a tiny gain. New York City saw the same pattern, with carpooling also showing a slight drop.

Unlike the national figures, New York’s numbers fall just outside the margin of error, demonstrating a small but measurable change. The data comes from the American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates for 2011.

While the New York Times focused on the fact that drivers have shorter average commute times than transit riders (which the Times admitted was nothing new), digging deeper into the data shows some revealing information about how NYC commuters get to work.

NYC residents who commute to work by car are more likely to own their own home than other NYC residents. Source: 2011 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates, Table S0802

A big distinction between workers who drive alone and those who take transit is the type of housing they occupy. There are approximately two working NYC residents who rent their apartments for every one who lives in an owner-occupied unit. However, 57 percent of workers who drive alone own their own home, while 73 percent of transit commuters lived in a rental apartment. This increased likelihood of homeowners to drive to work alone could be due to the fact that areas in the city with less transit access also tend to have higher homeownership rates.

When you break down the data some more, an obvious distinction arises for government workers in New York City. Government employees make up 22 percent of commuters driving alone, but only 11 percent of transit commuters. Perhaps there is some link between the outsize rate of government employees driving alone to work and rampant illegal parking and placard abuse across the city.

This post has been updated.