Alternative Transportation

Transportation Choices

Improved less than 1 percent from
2015 to 2016

How are we doing?

Transportation choices received a thumbs-up because the estimated percentage of San Diegans who drive alone to work decreased slightly from 76.3% in 2015 to 75.7% in 2016. There were slight increases in the percentage of workers reporting carpooling, bicycling and walking, however, public transit ridership decreased. The total percent of workers using alternative means of transportation is around 24%. Compared to other regions, San Diego has a low percentage of bicycle and public transit commuters. See more information.

Data Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2016 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates, 2017

Data Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2015 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates, 2016

The percentage of San Diego workers who drive to work alone remains high at 75.7% in 2016, decreasing slightly from 76.3% in 2015. Public transit ridership decreased by 0.6 percentage points while carpooling, bicycling and walking increased slightly.

Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions

San Diego commuters that walked and biked to work in 2016 saved 6,576 metric tons of CO2e versus driving, equivalent to taking over 1,400 passenger cars off the road for one year.

Why is it important?

  • Replacing single-occupancy, conventional vehicle trips with bicycling or walking is the most significant way to cut greenhouse gas emissions from personal transportation and improve San Diego’s air quality.
  • In order to promote walking and public transit, more regional smart growth strategies are needed to bring jobs, housing and transit centers close to each other.

Data Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2016 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates, 2017

Data Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2015 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates, 2016

The percentage of San Diego County workers who bike to work is lower than most other major urban counties in California. The number of bicycle commuters increased by 0.1 percentage points from 2015 to 2016.

Data Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2016 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates, 2017

Data Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2015 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates, 2016

Public transit use among San Diego County workers was 2.9% in 2016, which is low compared to San Francisco and Los Angeles. Unfortunately, ridership in San Diego County decreased by 0.6 percentage points from 2015 to 2016.

  Idea for Change

Circulate San Diego is championing a policy to create free transfers between MTS buses and MTS buses and trolleys. Currently MTS is the only top-20 transit agency that doesn’t allow free or reduced transfers for buses. Greater options for transportation can mean less driving, reduced traffic and congestion, and fewer GHG emissions from cars.

  Bright Spot

The Metropolitan Transit System (MTS) upgraded their Compass Cash program in June 2017 to include “stored value” so that riders can load virtual money onto cards for purchasing single rides. The aim is to make it easier for people to choose transit on MTS and North County Transit District busses, trains and trollies. MTS also offers a separate mobile ticketing app called Compass Cloud. Both programs are showing great success, with Compass Cash riders spending $217,000 for more than 79,000 one-way trips in the first six month of operation. MTS says the programs appeal particularly to transit riders who are familiar with the system but only ride occasionally.

  What are we measuring?

We measure alternative transportation by tracking the percentage of workers 16 years or older who commute via car, bike, public transit or other alternative transportation, and comparing these proportions to other major urban counties. Greenhouse gas emission reductions are estimated using the California Air Resources Board emission factor, assuming commuters would otherwise be driving a 2016 model year gas car five days a week, with average walking and biking commute lengths from the Federal Highway Administration 2017 National Household Travel Survey. Emission equivalency derived from the Environmental Protection Agency Greenhouse Gas Equivalencies Calculator.
Learn more about the data.