*** Please also see this detailed city-by-city ranking of commute behavior ***

I can’t resist fiddling with the big batch of new Census data. So here’s a look at commute habits in Northwest cities, rank-ordered by the least share of workers driving alone:

city_commute alone

This was quite a surprise to me. Generally speaking, I think of Seattle and Portland as being virtually identical in this sort of ranking. But the reality is that Seattle is the Northwest’s clear leader in commute-trip alternatives with fewer than 53 percent of workers driving solo.

Parse the data by county, however, and things look a bit different:

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  • commute alone

    That said, county-level comparisons are tricky. Multnomah County, for example, is a small and urbanized county; it’s not really comparable to sprawling King County, which extends from the Cascade Crest to Puget Sound. Just so, Benton County, Oregon is tiny compared with, say, Snohomish and Pierce counties in Washington.

    I included Idaho cities and counties in my rankings, but no place in Idaho made it into the Top 10. In fact, the only place east of the Cascades that made it was the somewhat puzzling placement of Grant County, Washington.

    Anyway, I thought it was all interesting. But it’s hardly an excuse for excessive boasting. Ranked nationally, Seattle nets only 25th place for having the smallest share of drive-alone commuters, while Portland ranks 50th. Although the Northwest certainly does better than most places, when one consider peers like Washington, DC (36.5 percent), Boston (37 percent), or San Francisco (38.9 percent), we can see that our work is cut out for us.

    Notes: All data come from 2009 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates, table “GCT0802. Percent of Workers 16 Years and Over Who Traveled to Work by Car, Truck, or Van—Drove Alone,” here. For simplicity, I did not include margins of error in these tables. Please keep in mind that although they are only a percentage point or two for the higher-population locales, in some of the small cities and counties they can be as high as +/- 4 or 5 percent.