Census survey: It's a long, lonely commute
The Census Bureau's 2006-2008 American Community Survey shows that despite more than a decade of efforts to get commuters in the Washington region to carpool, take transit or live close enough to walk to work, most people continue to drive, drive alone and drive a long way to work.
The study of that three-year span says our region had 2,221,629 workers over 16. Of them, 1,415,834 drove alone to work, while 363,334 took public transportation. The number said to be carpooling was put at 237,724. (This is a survey, not an actual count. That's just once a decade. You can see the full details for our region here.)
Nationwide, the percentage of workers who drove alone to work ranged from 50.4 percent in the New York metropolis to 87.3 percent in the Jackson, Tenn., and Monroe, Mich., areas. We come in at 63.7 percent. Public transportation is the choice of 16.4 percent. (Not bad, nationwide. The figures don't appear here, but in most surveys, the percentage of public transit users rises toward the more crowded center of urban regions.)
The study says New York had the longest mean travel time to work, at 34.5 minutes, followed by us, at 33.2 minutes. Only one metropolitan area, Grand Forks, N.D., had a mean travel time to work of less than 15 minutes, the study said.
What are the implications? First, we're not doing ourselves any favors as a group, though individuals are choosing the course they think is best for them. Collectively, we're using too much gas, getting the roads too crowded and creating a demand for more roads -- expensive to build and maintain and wasteful of land.
It also highlights the plight of Metro riders. To keep fares from surging, they need to convince their fellow taxpayers -- who don't ride Metro -- that local governments should increase their subsidies. Their best argument: Metro takes about a half million cars off the road. But that requires imagination, to visualize the consequences of a commute with all those extra vehicles.
A related case of us and them: Drivers on the Dulles Toll Road aren't anxious to pay the higher tolls proposed for January. Particularly annoying to many is the idea that much of the money will go not to improvements on the roadway but to building the new Metrorail line through Tysons and out toward Dulles. Those drivers have long argued that they are the majority, not the potential transit riders. Why shouldn't the $5 billion for the transit line go to improving the roads in the area?
October 27, 2009; 10:53 AM ET
Categories: Commuting , Congestion , Driving , Metro , transit | Tags: Dr. Gridlock
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