If you commute to work in Alabama, chances are you are in a car. No state in the country has a smaller share of commuters using public transportation.
According to estimates released Thursday by the U.S. Census Bureau, just .4 percent of the state’s workers 16 and older use public transportation, tied with Mississippi and Arkansas for the fewest in the country.
The national average was 5.1 percent. The top places for public transportation riders were the District of Columbia, with 36.8 percent, followed by New York (28 percent), New Jersey (11.2 percent), Massachusetts (9.9 percent) and Illinois (9.2 percent).
The estimates come from the American Community Survey, a massive survey that asks Americans a wide variety of demographic questions over a five-year period.
The estimated share of public transit riders in Alabama actually declined from the 2007-2011 period, when a half-percent of the state’s commuters took public transportation.
In a largely rural state without giant metropolitan areas, of course, mass transit in Alabama largely means buses. There are no subways or light rail lines. That limits the options. Some rural counties lack even limited bus systems.
According to the Census Bureau, in fact, 13 Alabama counties had zero public transportation customers in the 2012-2016 survey.
The urban counties of Jefferson, Lee and Montgomery all cracked the top 5 highest volumes of mass transit riders as a share of the population. But the top county — at 1 percent — was Greene County, which ranks 66th out of 67 counties in population density.
Likewise, the Alabama counties where residents face the longest commutes are not ones with big cities where motorists fight daily traffic jams. Instead, they are rural counties far from the jobs. In the period covered by the latest survey, Blount County residents had the longest commutes in the state — an average one-way trip of 35.1 minutes.
The next seven, in order, were Cleburne, Washington, Chilton, Choctaw, Greene, Clay and Lowndes counties. All had average commutes longer than 30 minutes. That is longer than the national average of 26.1 minutes, which is slightly longer than the 24.5-minute state average.
It could be worse. They could be living in the East Stroudsburg, Pa., metropolitan area, the metro area with the nation’s highest average commute at 38.6 minutes.
On the other end of the spectrum was Pike County, where the average commute was just 19.7 minutes. Montgomery County was just behind at 20 minutes. Dale, Madison and Coffee counties round out the counties with the five shortest average commutes.
Commutes have gotten longer by 4 minutes or more in seven Alabama counties, compared with the 2007-2011 survey period. Greene County tops that list; average commutes for residents there are up 7 minutes, to 31.2 minutes. The other counties are Covington, Marengo, Conecuh, Cleburne, Franklin and Lamar.