Car pulls far out in front as transport for commuters to work and education


The dominant role of the car in Irish transport has been underlined by the latest census figures, showing two out of three commuters drove to work last year.

A total of 1.14 million people, representing 69 per cent of commuters, either drove to work or were a passenger in a car in 2011. This compared with 498,646 people or 57 per cent of commuters in 1981.

The shift towards car dependency stretches across generations, with six out of 10 primary pupils travelling to school by car last year. One in four walked to school, compared with half of children walking to primary school in 1981.

For the first time more secondary students travelled to school by car than by bus with about 40 per cent of students (126,172) travelling by car in April 2011, compared with 30 per cent (96,153) by bus.

Driving is also the favourite mode of transport for third-level students, albeit marginally. Some 29 per cent of students drove to college in 2011, with 28 per cent walking and 5 per cent cycling.

The statistics are contained in the Central Statistics Office’s tenth and final profile report on Census 2011. Door to Door – Commuting in Ireland presents the commuting patterns of the Irish population, covering modes of travel and journey times for workers and students.

In contrast with the rising dependence on cars, the number of commuters using public buses fell by 23,277 between 2006 and 2011, a drop of 20 per cent.

This was countered by an increase in the number of commuters using a train, Dart or Luas. Almost 40,000 more people took a train to work in 2011 than 30 years previously, nearly doubling the share of commuters using the train from 1.7 per cent to 3.2 per cent.

Between 2006 and 2011 there was a 9.6 per cent rise in the number of people cycling from 36,306 to 39,803. This, however, was still well below the 60,750 cycling in 1986.

A total of 170,510 people walked to work, accounting for 10.5 per cent of all commuters in 2011. More commuters walked to work in Galway with 17 per cent walking, compared with 14.5 per cent in Dublin and Waterford and just 4.6 per cent in rural areas.

The average time spent travelling to work in 2011 was 26.6 minutes, a decrease from 27.5 minutes in 2006. This equates to nearly 212 hours’ commuting each year to and from work for someone working five days a week, 48 weeks a year.

The economic downturn has led to slightly reduced congestion, benefiting those leaving early for work most. Workers who left home before 6.30am had an average travel time to work of 36 minutes last year, down from 42 minutes in 2006. However, average travel times for those leaving from 7.30am to 8.30am remained unchanged at about 27 minutes.

One in 10 workers travelled for 60 minutes or more in 2011, in contrast with one in eight workers in 2006. The number of parents with children aged under five who spent an hour or more commuting to work was 35,345, of whom 13,032 were female.

Last year, the number of female car drivers (551,638) surpassed male car drivers (515,813) among the working population for the first time, with seven out of every 10 women driving to work compared with six out of 10 male commuters.

Further details and interactive maps, designed in conjunction with the All-Island Research Observatory (Airo), can be viewed at:

Bus: 5.6%

52,749 commuted by bus or coach last year, a drop of 20% compared with 2006

Cycling: 2.2%

Up from 36,306 to 39,803 since 2006. Well below the 60,750 cycling in 1986

Car: 69%

1.14m drove to work or were a passenger in a car in 2011. 1981 figure was 57%

Rail: 3.2%

There were 52,700 such commuters last year: up 1.7% or 40,000 from 1981

Walking: 10.5%

170,510 people walked to work last year – 10.5 per cent of all commuters

Time : 26.6 min

Average time spent travelling to work was down from 27.5 mins in 2006

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