Americans Spend More Time Behind the Wheel, Despite Reduction in Daily Mobility, According to Ketchum’s Daily Ride Index

Americans Spend More Time Behind the Wheel, Despite Reduction in Daily Mobility, According to Ketchum’s Daily Ride Index


Alicia Stetzer


[email protected]

NEW YORK, June 6, 2019 – With an average of 1.37 cars owned per American adult, the personal automobile remains a staple of American transportation, according to the latest Daily Ride Index, conducted by global communications consultancy Ketchum. Despite many new alternative forms of transit, the average American has seen a 12 percent increase in time spent in their car per week (from 9 hours and 43 minutes per week, to 10 hours and 50 minutes per week) from October 2018 to March 2019.

Regardless of the increase in time spent in personal vehicles, only 59 percent of respondents reported using their personal vehicles daily, down 10 percentage points from Ketchum’s October 2018 study. Alternate forms of transportation – such as walking, biking, riding a train or subway, and using a taxi or ride sharing service – also showed a downward trend between fall 2018 and spring 2019, when the survey was fielded, indicating an overall reduction in American mobility.

“In the past six months, Americans have reported decreasing daily use of all forms of transportation. Personal vehicles still dominate mobility, but transportation providers may not be considering the seasonal impact on consumer transit behaviors. Alternative forms of transportation have the opportunity to be more mindful of the effects that suboptimal weather conditions and infrastructure have on the driving/riding experience,” said Kevin Oates, partner and managing director of Ketchum’s Transportation team. “New forms of transportation must seriously address issues like harsh weather and poor road conditions if they are ever to rival the utility of personal vehicle ownership.”

City centers paving the way to the transit future

Given the trend of urbanization – as noted in Mintel Trend ‘Rebirth of Cities,’ which details how urban areas are transforming to maximize their potential in line with the needs of consumers – a look at the Daily Ride Index’s urban respondents reveals key transportation behaviors.

The research indicates that American urbanites own fewer vehicles and drive less frequently than their rural counterparts. About half (56 percent) of those in urban environments use a personal vehicle to get from place to place daily, while two-thirds (67 percent) of those in rural environments drive their cars daily. Urbanites spend an average of 39 percent less time driving each week compared to their rural counterparts (10 hours and 20 minutes vs. 14 hours and 25 minutes). People in urban areas are more likely than those in the general population to not own any vehicles at all (15 percent vs. 13 percent).

People in urban areas spend more time using ride-sharing services, buses, trains and subways on average, compared to general consumers and rural consumers. Despite the fact that urbanites favor alternate modes of transportation, they are more likely (34 percent) than the national average (29 percent) to consider purchasing a new vehicle in the next 12 months.

Across the board, those in urban environments are more comfortable than the general population with advances in automotive technology, especially among alternative engine types, including: fully electric cars (42 percent vs. 35 percent), plug-in hybrids (38 percent vs. 33 percent), hydrogen-powered cars (29 percent vs. 25 percent), and fully autonomous (25 percent vs. 19 percent). Those who do own a vehicle in urban environments are more likely than the average American to own a hybrid vehicle (9 percent vs. 6 percent).

“As the world’s population becomes more urbanized, the transportation habits of current city-dwellers population will provide important clues what the transportation sector of the future will look like,” said Oates. “While some of this data isn’t surprising, it reinforces the varied needs of the population today and how those needs may become more aligned with the mindsets of urban residents in the near future.”

An emerging audience segment

The research also identified an audience segment that stands out from the general population. This emerging audience demonstrates a more future-focused mindset based on their transportation media consumption habits. Preliminary findings indicate that this group:

  • Spends more time per week driving their personal cars than the average American – 13 hours and 22 minutes compared to general consumers spending 10 hours and 50 minutes;
  • Spends more time using ride-sharing services per week (2 hours and 19 minutes) compared to the average consumer (1 hour and 2 minutes per week);
  • Is more likely to use alternative work commute types than the general population, including bus (18 percent vs. 11 percent), taxi service (17 percent vs. 8 percent) and train/subway (12 percent vs. 7 percent);
  • Is more likely to purchase a new vehicle in the next year (49 percent vs. 29 percent), with 58 percent stating they are comfortable with a fully electric car;
  • Is 22 percent more comfortable with alternative fuel types than the average consumer, and is highly interested in purchasing hydrogen fuel cell vehicles (43 percent), despite limited availability and refueling infrastructure;
  • Is more open to autonomous driving vehicles then the general consumer (37 percent vs. 19 percent);
  • Is more willing to complete their entire vehicle purchase online than the general consumer (54 percent vs. 30 percent).

“We’re seeing the emergence of a fresh, forward-looking group of transportation enthusiasts with a receptiveness toward non-traditional transit types and technologies,” said Oates. “Their transportation needs are varied and require an assortment of options. This audience is likely to be comfortable breaking from norms, showing willingness for purchasing a car online or trying new technology, for example, and will offer valuable insights for how we communicate and market all forms of transportation in the future. We’re excited to dig deeper and track this group in upcoming editions of the Daily Ride Index.”

More details on the study can be found at

About Ketchum’s Daily Ride Index
Ketchum’s Daily Ride Index is a recurring study intended to get a pulse check on changing consumer acceptance of new forms of transportation and related technology. The Spring 2019 edition was an online omnibus survey fielded by LUCID between March 23 and 27, 2019, among a representative sample of 1,002 adults in the U.S. The future-focused audience segment is defined as those participating in reading and following news items related the future of transportation, such as new automotive technologies, flying cars, etc., once a week or more often. The future-focused audience segment base size totaled 195 respondents. Urban and rural audience definitions are derived from Nielsen’s ABCD counties that are categorized based on U.S. Census Bureau population data. The urban audience is equivalent to Nielsen’s A counties, defined as the populations that make up the 25 largest U.S. cities. The rural audience is equal to Nielsen’s D counties, defined as the smallest counties by population and very rural. The total number of respondents analyzed for the urban definition was 379, and the total number of respondents analyzed for the rural definition was 132. The survey was conducted with a 95% confidence level and the margin of error is +/-3%.

About Ketchum
Ketchum is a leading global communications consultancy with operations in more than 70 countries across six continents. PRWeek’s Agency of the Past 20 Years, Ketchum is the winner of 76 Cannes Lions and an unprecedented six PRWeek Campaign of the Year Awards. Ketchum partners with clients to deliver strategic programming, game-changing creative and measurable results that build brands and reputations. For more information on Ketchum, a part of Omnicom Public Relations Group, visit

About Omnicom Public Relations Group
Omnicom Public Relations Group is a global collective of three of the top global public relations agencies worldwide and specialist agencies in areas including public affairs, marketing to women, global health strategy and corporate social responsibility. It encompasses more than 6,300 public relations professionals in more than 370 offices worldwide who provide their expertise to companies, government agencies, NGOs and nonprofits across a wide range of industries. Omnicom Public Relations Group delivers for clients through a relentless focus on talent, continuous pursuit of innovation and a culture steeped in collaboration. Omnicom Public Relations Group is part of the DAS Group of Companies, a division of Omnicom Group Inc. (NYSE: OMC) that includes more than 200 companies in a wide range of marketing disciplines including advertising, public relations, healthcare, customer relationship management, events, promotional marketing, branding and research.