Transit, Walking, Biking and Telecommuting Gain Market Share

First the bad news: The percentage of workers in the Washington region riding in carpools or vans declined about five percent between 2000 and 2006 — putting roughly 17,000 more drivers onto already crowded rush-hour roads.

Those numbers come from a just-released “Regional Travel Trends Report” issued by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments. (See Table 7 on page 14.)

Now for the good news. A smaller percentage of commuters is driving solo. Commuters are shifting to transit, telecommuting, walking and biking. The number of transit riders surged from 279,000 to 393,000 over that six-year period — an increase of 114,000.

The number of people walking to work metro-wide increased by about 6,300, while the number of bicyclists rose by nearly 3,900. The number of people telecommuting rose by 19,700.

Despite the shifts in transportation mode, the absolute number of solo drivers still increased, and so did congestion. Pessimists will say that the positive numbers for transit, walking and biking are negligible in a metro region with a workforce of nearly 2.8 million. But I see the numbers as a sign that change is possible. The increase in those modes is all the more remarkable considering that the vast majority of population growth occurred in outlying municipalities of the Washington region where cars are the only transportation option. In jurisdictions where transportation alternatives exist, the gains were encouraging indeed.

(Hat tip to Jim Wamsley for this citation. His comment: “Transit ridership statistics obtained from WMATA and local jurisdiction transit systems show the growth in weekday transit ridership in the 2000 to 2006 period increasing at a rate 38% faster than that of weekday VMT. The differential in these two rates of growth rate suggests a measurable modal shift from auto to transit for some daily trips in this time period.”)


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27 responses to “Transit, Walking, Biking and Telecommuting Gain Market Share”

  1. Anonymous Avatar

    “the growth in weekday transit ridership in the 2000 to 2006 period increasing at a rate 38% faster than that of weekday VMT. The differential in these two rates of growth rate suggests a measurable modal shift from auto to transit for some daily trips in this time period.”

    How much was the cost growth for tansit during that period?

    RH

  2. Jim Bacon Avatar

    Ray, Good question.

  3. Groveton Avatar

    I have the hope that the total commute distance in NoVA may be going down. This may seem counter-intuitive based on residential suburban building in ouliying regions. However, I am seeing more and more companies locate in Sterling, the Dulles area, Reston and other distributed places. This should allow for shorter commutes for those people living near these new mini job centers. Of course, it may just convince people that they can now live even further out since the job is in Reston instead of Tyson’s of Rosslyn!

  4. Anonymous Avatar

    “Of course, it may just convince people that they can now live even further out since the job is in Reston instead of Tyson’s of Rosslyn!”

    No doubt there will be some of that, but with higher fuel costs and generally longer commuting time, I believe more people (who are current buyers) will think a little more about where they buy. (At least initially, after career growth, mariage, and job changes take over, all bets are off.)

    Ideally, you would like to be centrally located among a number of mini-job centers to get maximum opportunities in any direction.

    Some people here think that an employwe wll want to be near R=0 to have access to the maximum choice of employees, but there are two problems with that. 1) If it is extarordinarily difficult and expensive to get to R=0 you may loses the choice of emplyees you would otherwise have. 2) You don;t really buy much by having access to more employees than you need.

    Combined with the idea that as an employee you would like to have access to as many jobs in as many directions as possible, with a low mortgage, and the idea that 20 or 30 miles is about all you can do in an hour any more, then the optimum place to be would be somewhere on R=15 to R=20.

    I think more job centers will make the average commute distance smaller. But it depends on land use. With all the anti-growth sentiment, we may find that close in homes are even more expensive, andwe drive people still farther away.

    RH

  5. Anonymous Avatar

    Not to disagree too much with the venerable RH, but based on the number of people moving to Winchester (where some of my family lives) and working in Loudon, I’d say a good number of folks are just moving ever further west. Just take a look at the Ryan Homes ads in the WP- Winchester, Shenandoah Co., WV are all on their maps of new homes marketed to Washingtonians…

  6. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    The “sweet spot” is one hour from work to your “affordable” SFH with a green back yard.

    If you can get to it in one hour with your SOLO SUV – then “sweeeeeet”.

    but other modes “work” just as well… bus, carpool, commuter rail, METRO.. helicopter … time machine, etc.

    If there was a way to get from Wash Metro to West Va in one hour… reliably every day… significant numbers of folks would move there.

    And you know what?

    If you live OUTSIDE of Wash Metro – you can EASILY change jobs across much of the region on “your side” without significantly affecting your commute time…

  7. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Footloose and Fancy Free: A Field Survey of Walkable Urban Places in the Top 30 U.S. Metropolitan Areas

    1
    Washington – Arlington – Alexandria (NE)
    Downtown

    http://www.brookings.edu/papers/2007/1128_walkableurbanism_leinberger.aspx

  8. Anonymous Avatar

    I don’t doubt that more and more people are living farther West. Are they new people, or people who formerly lived closer and moved?

    The question is are they traveling more or less? If they are travelling more, are they still better off? (More home for the same or less money, more upside than downside in future valuations. Healthier, safer environment. Plus Cash in the bank from selling the former home, maybe.)

    If they really are substantially better off, how can we blame them? Why would we stop them? If (and that is a pretty big if) the general public is actually worse off because of their behavior, HOW would we stop them?

    Naturally, my beliefs are based on my experiences: The first few jobs I had, I moved considerable distance to be close to.

    Then I had a long term job, and the company eventually moved west, away from me.

    I moved west to be closer to the job, which then evaporated, and I was stuck with long commutes for a while. Try as I might, I just could not reverse the equation that says I was better off moving west.

    Now, enough other jobs have moved west that my commute is shorter again.

    Take my experience and multiply it a few tens of thousands of times, and you have Loudoun County.

    ——————————–

    But, my question above was based on this thought: suppose alternative modes increased 38% aster than VMT but the spending on alternative modes increased 500%, or 5%.

    We might have different ideas whether a 38% increase in alternative modes was good or bad.

    ———

    Venerable? Sheesh, Im not THAT old.

    RH

  9. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    I would never advocate stopping people from living where they want to live as long as they don’t come whining to me for tax dollars to buy them their commuting infrastructure.

    It usually starts with a few folks moving “out” and life is good.. then more and more move “out” and the next think you know, their one hour commute turns into a 2hr gridlockish nightmare and they start whining about needing more road capacity.

    If those same folks are willing to pay the necessary money upgrade their road, I’d say “go for it”.

    But most of those folks don’t want to pay their “user pays” share because it would be too much so they want the “state” (VDOT) to come fix their road with tax dollars from folks who never use their road but have a road of their own that they use everyday.

    That’s why I favor tolls. If a bunch of folks want a freeway from Wash Metro to Winchester AND they’re willing to pay the TOLLs necessary to build and operate that road then more power to them…

    Get themselves organized into a PPTA.. find some investors, do the financial calculations… borrow the money, build the road, and charge whatever tolls needs to be charged to pay back the investors plus their ROI.

    The PPTA would not use Emminent Domain. They would acquire R/W via willing seller/willing buyer and they would make sellers “whole” by buying the whole parcel if that was the wishes of the property owner.

    If on the other hand.. you choose a god-awful commute… and you’re too cheap to pay the costs of making that commute better.. then stifle it.

    Everybody is out to see what they can get out of the next guys pocket by invoking the “I’m just a poor worker trying to “afford” a home” .. and it’s not my fault I gotta drive 75 miles to get what I want”…

    and I’m not joking. Don’t be surprised if some PPTA proposes a toll road to Winchester… and then I suspect we’ll hear RH worried about the operators “screwing” the commuters …with high tolls…

    🙂

  10. Groveton Avatar

    A lot of people would love to live in a small town in a generally rural area while holding a good job with a minimal commute. Some people come pretty close to that dream. They just can’t solve for the “minimal commute” part of the equation.

  11. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Maybe.

    The oft-cited statistic is that the average person changes jobs every 7 years.

    that’s hard to do in most small towns.

    I don’t think we’ll put the mobility genie back into the bottle….

    It’s not that people love their cars – I don’t think – it’s their personal mobility to live where they want and to take a better job when they want to.

    It’s a freedom that most of us will never willingly give up…

    and we should not have to – but we must pay the piper….

    and most folks are willing to do so…not without some griping…

    In a perfect world – we’d tally up the economic costs of congestion – and we’d charge all of those who lost hours in congestion – the amount of money it would cost to relieve the congestion AND provide them with a reliable ride to work.

    I carpooled for 30 years – 45 miles each way.. a pain in the arse… some days.. especially the guy who liked Howard Stern at 6:30 in the morning…

    it never hurt me.. it save me big bucks on gasoline… and I either slept or read or nowdays.. I could even have an IPOD and drown out Howard.

    I don’t understand why this is such a horrible option to many folks.

    A friend of mine road a bus from Stafford to Georgetown everyday of his 30 year career.. and he’s none the worse for it.

    If just 1/3 of his neighbors in Stafford did the same thing – I-95 would be a reasonable commute for most folks…

    so .. I don’t have a whole lot of sympathy if you have that choice.. and you don’t use it.. and then you complain about the congestion.. caused, in part, by your own behavior.

  12. just for fun Avatar
    just for fun

    Bikers slow everyone else down and make congestion worse.

    Passed one tonight who had no reflective clothing and no rear lights. He/she had a front light. Clueless of the danger.

    Has anyone done a study on the energy cost of pedaling a bike?

    What kind of carbon footprint is the result of human energy consumption to power a bike and then to take a shower at both work and back home?

    How many divorces from bikers who refuse to spend the energy to bathe?

    How does this compare to the efficiency of the internal combustion engine?

    Maybe I should get a coalition of Amish to come to Northern Virginia and commute in horse drawn buggies during rush hour.

    Maybe that would put an end to this third world thinking.

  13. Anonymous Avatar

    We already have an estimate of the economic costs of congestion: $1089 per driver. Add to that the pollution costs of congestion. We are going to pay for roads, whether we get them or not.

    Car pooling is great if you have a job that supports it. My experience is that I neve know when I will leave at the end of the day, or if I might have to go somewhere during the day. Car pooling is simply not feasible for me. For the most part, my employers would not have countenanced it. Basically, I have never had a job that would have supported a carpool. If it works, great, just don;t ever count on more than a few percent.

    If a bus was available with half our departure times, I would gladly use it, even if I still had to drive to the park and ride. But, one thing I thinke we should demand from public transit is a seat, which at least you get on a bus. Then new Metro cars are designed for more standees, and I think this is both a mistake and a hidden fare increase.

    The problem I have with Larry’s argument is that I don’t know how you decide what is “their” road. After all, anybody is free to use it. There are so many road users (virtually all of us) that the user pays argument is almost senseless. Particularly since all of us have refused to raise the gas tax for over thirty years.

    The scenario he offer is that a few people move out and life is good, then more people move out and suddenly more roads are needed. Whining he calls it. WE need to ask WHY they moved out. MAYBE it is because the options were worse. MAYBE the (unchosen) alternative would have required just as much transportaion investment.

    It could be, after all, that more road capacity IS needed and it is the best economic alternative. Shutting off the funds for thirty years and then saying the the NEW users should build their own stuff and pay for it, is just cynical, selfish, and blind to the actual facts on the ground.

    It could also NOT be the best alternative, but right now, we have no way of knowing.

    When those people want more capacity, it isn’t only Larry’s tax dollars they are after, in order to get it.

    You are NOT going to be able to build more roads in any Metro area because of air pollution controls, not to mention NIMBY. We could have built the Inter county connector for the costs of all the meetings held over the last thirty years. You are NOT going to build any right of way without Eminent Domain, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have to pay a fair price.

    It doesn’t matter whether it is tolls or gas tax, or transit, we are going to need more money. All that tolls does is attempt to tax the guy behind the tree: to put the cost on a smaller base, preferably somewhere else.

    When I had a god-awful commute, I didn’t choose it: it just happened. In fact, I chose my living condition partially to alleveiate the previous commuting condition, but it just didn’t work out as planned.

    In fact, most of the planning is doen by zoning boards, and if we have a problem with commuting, it is as much their fault as it is the commuters. We can place a big part of the blame on business, because they are the ones that create the demand for heroic transportation solutions required to move thousands to small areas.

    Such places lose all sense of scale and community, and dehumanize people. Recently, my wife met a vendor at the grocery store, and placed a verbal order. The vendor said, I’ll drop it off, and you pay me when you see me. When did that ever happen in New York?

    How small is small? Some people have tried to figure out empirically what size town makes sense. the ususal result turns out to be 100,000 to 500,000, but there is a lot of controversy on methodology. The fact remains, that we have thousands of miles of underused roads, that are costing us a fortune to maintain, for very little ROI.

    If we can deny people the right og build, which is what the anti growth movement is doing, we can also deny businesses the right to build whre they will add to the congestion costs. We can reset the gas tax to where it needs to be, or we can use tolls or mileage tax, if we can figure out how to alleviate the geographic unfairlness associated with adding tolls. We can rarrange how we do business.

    There are a lot of ways to make things better. But there is no way that I can see to put more people in less space, without making it more expensive: we are not transistors.

    RH

  14. Groveton Avatar

    BANG!! BANG!!

    That’s the sound of a nail being hit on the head:

    “There are a lot of ways to make things better. But there is no way that I can see to put more people in less space, without making it more expensive: we are not transistors.”.

    How anybody thinks there can be economic growth without job growth is beyond me. I guess we can hope that oil is discovered somewhere in Virginia. Or, “the market” will suddenly come to its senses and start paying everybody in Virginia more for the same jobs.

    How anybody can think that zero economic growth is a good thing is beyond me. Plug this scenario into your models – static job levels, salaries rise only at the level of inflation. The problem is that the population keeps on growing, and aging. What to do? What to do? Either cut social services or tax the static job holders more (i.e. a higher rate). Improve efficiency of government? EMR is right about that – it will take more than a few new computers at the DMV to get that. The whole governance structure would have to be overhauled to make any serious inroads into efficiency.

    How anybody can think that you can have more jobs without more infrastructure is beyond me. The only real question is whether you can distribute the jobs better in order to more efficiently use the existing infrastructure and get the best returns on the new infrastructure. Maybe. But the key to this is through the employers not the employees. Tax the employer based on the distance their employees commute to work. Employers want to reduce the tax? They can get credits for employees who use mass transit (receipts required). They can establish satellite offices where employees can work near their homes. They can implement work at home processes and technologies. They can refuse to hire people who live too far away.

    This blog as long focused on how people living in the suburbs want others to pay for “their” roads. The theory is that these “people” are using the public road system to take from others unfairly. But it isn’t the people who are really gaining – it is the shareholders of the companies where they work.

    Tax the employers.

  15. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Is this what you mean?

    “Arlington and Fairfax counties have also taken steps this year to consider higher tax rates for office, retail and warehouse properties.

    In April, the General Assembly gave local governments the authority to raise commercial tax rates for transportation projects. Previously, the state had required governments to have the same rates for residential and commercial properties.”

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/11/20/AR2007112001943.html

  16. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    as far as roads, congestion, commuting and solo vs “pooling”.

    Despite the pollution laws and the expense of r/w in the Wash Metro Area, the reality is that the Feds WILL let new lanes and roads be built – with 2 provisos:

    1. – you gotta have the money

    (DUH!) but NoVA WILL have that money with their new TA which could generate 300mil a year or more- not exactly chump change.

    2. – they gotta be HOV or HOT or Transit!

    AND … further.. the real irony is that the Feds have agreed to let those who want to continue to drive their SUVs solo at rush hour – to do so!

    I mean.. what more could folks want?

    they get to decide what “their” roads are.. and they get to decide if they want a congested ride or a congestion-free ride.

    🙂

  17. Anonymous Avatar

    “Despite the pollution laws and the expense of r/w in the Wash Metro Area, the reality is that the Feds WILL let new lanes and roads be built -…”

    Are you saying that EPA will look the other way on air pollution and Bay pollution — if the price is right?

  18. Anonymous Avatar

    “The theory is that these “people” are using the public road system to take from others unfairly. But it isn’t the people who are really gaining – it is the shareholders of the companies where they work.”

    Thank you.

    And, if we also believe that businesses are tax positive, we should consider the use of roads they cause, even if the benefits of such use flow back to us all directly or indirectly.

    It is not only that the theory is wrong with respect to use, especially if you consider it on a government time scale instead of a daily timescale, it is also that the costs the theroy assumes fo not also include the benefits.

    The argument is not only assymmetric, it is inconsistent.

    RH

  19. Freedom Works Avatar
    Freedom Works

    Groveton

    Why not tax every employee who lives more than 2 miles from their job and who commutes between the hours of 6:30 and 10:00 a.m.?

    How does an employer benefit because an employee chooses to live 20 miles away to afford a bigger newer house?

    Employees obviously want a housing lifestyle that is cheaper to buy in the outlying counties.

    Or could it also be that the housing choices near jobs have been artificially limited due to overly restrictive zoning laws?

    Why should the land on the other side of the Dulles Toll Road from Tysons Corner be restricted to multi-million dollar homes on 1 acre lots?

    Shouldn’t the new apartments be there instead of in Loudoun County 20 miles away at Brambleton?

  20. Anonymous Avatar

    “How does an employer benefit because an employee chooses to live 20 miles away to afford a bigger newer house?”

    Well, if ou believe the arguments made here, the employer benefits two ways: he selects his location to be close to the other businesses he needs to work with, and he gets to locate in the center of the greatest number of employees.

    Including those that live in the outlying counties. The employer pays nothing for the ability to attract such people. Building more close in apartments doesn’t change the attraction. I t doesn’t change the atraction to the jobs, and it doesn’t change the attraction to a larger home.

    “Or could it also be that the housing choices near jobs have been artificially limited due to overly restrictive zoning laws?”

    Probably true. But what has been the purpose of zoning law? To prevent change, even if it is valuable change. And now we have a new and additional theory of land use which links it to transportation.

    Consequently, we have to take into account the cost of transportation in land use. At present, if a business or businesses agglomerate in such a way as to create a requirement for heroic transportation solutions, then they should be responsible for the costs, just as much as the commuters who use the sytems are.

    We need to shift the balance in both directions, not just one. And we need to be prepared to continually shift, because balance is a dynamic condition, not a static one.

  21. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    “How does an employer benefit because an employee chooses to live 20 miles away to afford a bigger newer house?”

    Because.. if that employee can do that, he’ll stay with that employer and that company won’t have to go looking for a replacement or pay him/her a higher salary to keep them.

    Companies don’t care about settlement patterns. They don’t even care if their employees have to drive 50 miles to find an affordable house.

    The Federal Government itself – as an employer – does not care either as a substantial percentage of it’s Wash Metro workforce lives in the outer suburbs.

    What companies want and need is a plentiful supply of talent to operate their enterprises – for the least salary they can pay and keep them.

    The lower their salary cost, the more competitive they are and the happier their investors are with their bottom lines….

    The ways that companies used to do this and some still do – was called “company towns”. Sometimes, they were literally towns owned and operated and sometimes they were towns… co-opted…

  22. Anonymous Avatar

    Right.

    If the Feds don’t care and the companies don’t care, why should we beat up on the guy who travels?

  23. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    re: beat up on drivers…

    this is sort of like asking why guys at a crowded sports event – pee in a urinal that says “out of order”.

    they do what they feel they gotta do – even if the consequences are bad stuff…

    so you don’t beat up on them.. you just charge them $50 if they insist on using the broken urinal.

    Now.. I be you folks reading this would never had guessed in a zillion years how a gridlocked road could be compared to a broken urinal.

    Now you know. and you’re welcome.

    🙂

  24. Groveton Avatar

    A commute requires an employer and an employee.

    Transportation is underfunded – somebody is going to pay.

    You can charge the employer, the employee or some third party.

    Employers are businesses who generally have the sophistication and capital to invest in their businesses. If they can avoid paying the “commuter tax” by changing the way they do business – that’s what they’ll do.

    Taxing business for transportation costs represents the best chance for distributing jobs which, in turn, represents the best near to mid term chance to fix the transportation problem (IMO).

    Why is the land next to Dulles Toll Rd zoned R-1?

    Developers are evil.

    And don’t give me the “developers woild make more money if they built high density housing” line. The typical NoVA developer lacks the capital and the talent to build high density housing. These jokers can barely construct a home from pre-existing specs using components built at a factory in Pennsylvania and trucked down to NoVA. When (not if) they get into financial trouble they just go bankrupt sticking the customer with the problem. Then they hit The Bahamas for a couple of weeks and come back under a new name. All very legal. All very immoral. No bank is dumb enough to lend these clowns enough money to build high density housing.

    So, if large tracts of land were zoned for high density most of these NoVA developer quacks would be out of business for good. They’d have to find honest work.

    Then who would line the pockets of the local and state politicians?

  25. Anonymous Avatar

    “A commute requires an employer and an employee.

    Transportation is underfunded – somebody is going to pay.

    You can charge the employer, the employee or some third party.

    Employers are businesses who generally have the sophistication and capital to invest in their businesses. If they can avoid paying the “commuter tax” by changing the way they do business – that’s what they’ll do.

    Taxing business for transportation costs represents the best chance for distributing jobs which, in turn, represents the best near to mid term chance to fix the transportation problem (IMO).”

    I’ve been trying to say that, but never got it under one succict roof.

    Thanks.

    RH

  26. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    do I get a whiff of… “let’s make it harder for businesses to locate in NoVa”?

    So… it’s okay to “penalize” businesses who hire people that commute to their jobs but it’s not okay to “penalize” those commuters who choose to live far away and drive SOLO during rush hour to work?

    I’m sure I’ve got this wrong.. so ya’ll set me straight on this.

    Isn’t this like a mandatory version of “more places”?

  27. Anonymous Avatar

    “So… it’s okay to “penalize” businesses who hire people that commute to their jobs but it’s not okay to “penalize” those commuters who choose to live far away and drive SOLO during rush hour to work?”

    No, but if one is OK, so is the other. What is the difference between making it harder for an employer to locate where he wants and making it harder for an employee to locate where he wants?

    I think Groveton had it right: a commute requires a commuter and and employee. If we think that locational characteristics are responsible for our congestion problems, then we should work BOTH ends of the problem.

    RH

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