Emerging Commuting Trends: Evidence from the Chicago Area

Over the last several decades commuting distances have increased in both miles and travel time. Our analysis focuses on the 2000 county-to-county commuting data from Census Transportation Planning Package that show intercounty commuting has increased substantially. In the Chicago six-county region these data indicate that three of the six counties are now net importers of commuters. In the past only Cook County (Chicago) had more commuters into than from the county. There are, however, demographic changes that contribute to lower increases in growth in commuters. Namely, the 1990s signaled the first increase in household size in over a hundred years. This was partially responsible for a decline in the portion of the population that is employed, a statistic that had been steadily increasing. In fact, in previous decades there was a larger growth in the number of commuters than in people thereby disproportionately adding to peak-period traffic. At the same time the exceptionally high increases in homeownership added to the size of the urbanized area. These data suggest that commuters are making housing choices that contribute to commuting travel distances. The ability and willingness to increase commuting distance makes it possible for employers to find their employees from an extended geographic region. As the economy is becoming more specialized, we may achieve the desired match between the jobs sought by commuters and the skill needs of employers.

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 Record created 2017-04-01, last modified 2020-10-28

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