How many of our neighbors in Greater Boston don’t drive? received an email recently asking for some data:


I would like to know the percentage (and number) of non-driving residents in Greater Boston. Can you help?

Now, we don’t compile numbers on this, although organizations like Massachusetts Smart Growth Alliance or MassDOT do. However, we took a stab at giving his emailer an answer, based on data that were available to the public. Here’s how we replied.

First, according to MassDOT…

“With an estimated population of over 6.79 million Massachusetts residents, about 80% (5.42 million) are of driving age (16 and over), while about 70% of all residents (4.747 million) are licensed drivers.”

So this would equal…

  • 6,790,000 Massachusetts residents
  • 5,432,000 (80%) are of driving age, but only
  • 4,753,000 (70%) have drivers licenses.

However, these numbers are going to be different in Greater Boston, which will have fewer licensed drivers than more rural areas–as the data below suggest.

One way to look at it

37% of households in Boston are car-free. So to apply that percentage to the population of Greater Boston, 1,400,719 Boston area residents of driving age would live in a household that is car-free.

Another way to look at it

According to a 2014 census bureau report, only 75.6% of Boston metro area residents (i.e., much of eastern MA plus a bit of southern NH) commuted by auto in 2013. But in just the city of Boston, only 45.3% of commuters drove alone to work or carpooled in 2013. That’s a huge difference between Boston and other parts of the Commonwealth. So if we UNSCIENTIFICALLY (!) extrapolate that ratio (45.3% versus 75.6%, or 3:5) to the drivers license numbers, you’d get…

  • 4,732,161 Greater Boston residents
  • 3,785,728 (80%) are of driving age, but only
  • 1,590,005 (42%) have drivers licenses.

So in short…

I’d assume that of the 3.9 million estimated Greater Boston residents of driving age, somewhere between 37-42% of them–or 1.4 to 1.6 million of them–don’t drive. 

What do you think of our analysis of these data? Do you have better figures? We’d love to hear from you in the comments, below.

Share this!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *