Survey reveals travel patterns were shifting pre-pandemic

Younger generations are favoring biking, walking, and public transit over cars more than they did a decade ago. Lower income households are traveling more. More workers are telecommuting for their jobs — even before the coronavirus pandemic began.

These trends highlight Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning’s (CMAP) newly released My Daily Travel survey, a comprehensive snapshot of the region’s travel behaviors that incorporates data from nearly 12,400 households in northeastern Illinois. The survey was conducted only about a year before the pandemic and its transportation disruptions began. It updates CMAP’s last regional survey of travel habits and conditions from 2008.

My Daily Travel found relatively small shifts in residents’ overall trip-making and travel preferences. But larger differences emerge when examining different demographics. In particular, younger travelers between 20 and 49 years old are driving less than in the late 2000s. Travelers in their 20s posted a 9-percentage point decline in driving from 2008 to 2019 and saw corresponding increases in biking, walking, and public transit use. 

A cyclist rides on the street in the foreground, with cars and other cyclists visible in the background on the street to the left, and pedestrians crossing the road on the right.

My Daily Travel also found that while there was a slight reduction in per-person travel overall, lower-income households actually experienced a nearly 15 percent increase in travel per-person from 2008 to 2019. 

Telecommuting, or working remotely, has trended upward since 2008. The number of My Daily Travel respondents working outside of home but telecommuting at least once a week increased from 7 percent in 2008 to 11 percent in 2019. Telecommuting also was much more prevalent among higher-income workers. Workers earning $60,000 or more in household income make up 83 percent of those who worked from home at least once per week. The expansion of remote work during the pandemic also has favored higher income workers, as CMAP has shown elsewhere

My Daily Travel is CMAP’s first household travel survey to include data on rides-hailing since transportation network companies, like Uber and Lyft, weren’t in the region in 2008. While rid-hailing companies have reshaped the transportation landscape, they still are a relatively small part of overall travel. In 2019, trips by transportation network companies comprised only 0.75 percent of all trips in the region. The closest comparison, taxis, made up 0.25 percent of all trips in 2008. 

My Daily Travel can help the region address broader questions about residents’ individual travel habits. What factors help explain individual travel choices? Are residents making fewer personal shopping trips? How do these trends influence future commercial and residential development in the region? A snapshot of trip-making and travel preferences can help area researchers and government leaders better understand northeastern Illinois’ diverse transportation network and how it influences the way people move throughout the region. CMAP will use the data from the survey in future reports on travel trends, and our partners are encouraged to use the data, as well. The full report on the My Daily Travel survey is available on the CMAP Data Hub, along with information on the survey’s methodology.