Last week the Census Bureau released its 2021 1 year American Community Survey Data for geographies with a population of greater than 65,000. With no ACS data available for 2020, the 2021 ACS was the first to accurately compare where we were with transportation to work in 2019. It’s no surprise, looking at the modal shift that fewer people were traveling downtown and lots of office workers worked from home.
People who commuted to work by bicycle at least 3 days per week last year was 18% lower than in 2019. The number of bike commuters estimated by the Census Bureau dropped from over 14,000 to just under 12,000. That number was slightly worse than the decline in people that drove alone in Philadelphia and significantly better than the number of public transit riders. Once again our annual bicycle counts on the Schuylkill River Bridges (South, Walnut, Market, Chestnut and Spring Garden Streets) have matched up well with the ACS estimate.
We expect bike traffic to continue to bounce back. Some of Center City’s largest employers are bringing their workforce back to the office, along with Indego expansion. According to our counts E-scooter use is also on the rise with just 1% of the bike/scooter counts in 2020 to 5% in 2021. Philadelphia has gone from zero miles of protected bike lanes in 2015 to 20+ miles in 2022. Expect the City to implement more concrete protection like this stretch of Germantown Avenue in Northern Liberties.
Finally, we do not want to overlook the significance of a ten percent decrease in single-occupancy vehicle commuters. For all of the controversy that work at home is generating, we cannot deny that the environmental and transportation benefits of fewer motor vehicle trip is a good thing. For years traffic engineers have been widening roads based on “peak hour” traffic, and now we seriously need to question how we allocate our transportation dollars.