Where to live for good commute?
Here's a question about transportation and real estate that came in during last week's online chat. I promised I would post it on the blog and ask for your comments.
Q. I'm moving to the D.C. area. Your chats put the fear of God, gods, and other supreme beings into me about either being stuck at the mercy of a Metro transit system that seems more off than on or roadways that would leave me in the car more than enjoying my life. I want to rely on public transportation, so outlying communities are out. So, where in the D.C. metro area can a person get a home in a nice/safe area, good schools, and a commute that won't kill the commuter?
DG: Choosing a place to live and assessing the impact on commuting is a favorite topic among travelers, and not just in the targeted discussions we have from time to time. If we do a posting on an event, like a winter storm, that had a particularly bad effect on commuters, someone will post a comment about walking to and from work, and that will set off a mini-debate about how living close would be swell, but ...
And it's not just us talking. There's a nationwide debate about what it takes to make a livable community. That played out recently when the Texas Transportation Institute published its latest Urban Mobility Study, in which we always rank either near the top or at the top in various measures of commuting misery.
Another group, CEOs for Cities, had published a critical review called Driven Apart that concluded the Urban Mobility Report gives a skewed view of commuter pain because it fails to adequately account for the distances people travel to get to work. The D.C. region actually drops down a dozen spots on the list when that study re-examines the urban mobility data.
All that's mostly about commuting by car. We live in an area with one of the most extensive transit networks in the nation. Besides, you can't just draw a ring around D.C. and say that inside the ring, you'll have a fine commute and outside of it traveling is terrible.
Tim Lomax of the Texas Transportation Institute noted the impact of Washington's geography on commuting: We've got two rivers to deal with. Also, the placement of the Metrorail lines has a huge impact on decisions about where to live. A person may not choose to live very near work, but will choose to live near a Metrorail line that has a station close to the work place.
But Ron Kirby, director of transportation planning at the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, notes further complications that affect the choice of residence: Many commuters dislike a long trip, but what really bothers them is an unreliable trip. They yearn to know that tomorrow's commute will take about the same amount of time as today's.
And a further complication: That's no longer an issue just for drivers. Many Metrorail commuters now make the same complaint about reliability.
Layer onto these factors the traditional issues: Most people don't select a residence based on commuting distance alone. Some want entertainment nearby, some want songbirds, some want good schools.
Bottom line: If you're looking specifically at transportation, there's no handful of best places to live in the D.C. area. Certain conditions remain important and will only increase in importance. You need a short commute on a reliable route. Before making a real estate decision, you need to test several routes, and different modes, such as driving and transit.
What's your take on the location issue?
| January 31, 2011; 2:10 PM ET
Categories: Commuting, Driving, Metro, Transit | Tags: Dr. Gridlock
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