That seems to be a legitimate question when comparing 2005 vs. 2000 Drive Alone commute rates. Prompted a few days ago by an article on WTOP Radio about the latest U.S. Census Figures (Live Far Away? Most Likely You Drive Alone, June 14, 2007; WTOP) we brought you a post (And the Survey Says: DC & Arlington Have Lowest Drive Alone Rates, June 14, 2007; CommuterPageBlog) that discussed the drive alone commute rates of various local jurisdictions based on the new 2005 numbers.
After some digging for additional information, that was harder to find than we thought, we've got the 2000 figures. Thank you to our good friend and transportation statistician extroidonaire, Lori Diggins of LDA Consulting (who also contributes to this great research site that we happen to be proud of), who found them for us. Here's the breakdown:
Jurisdiction 2005 2000 Difference
- Howard County: 80.3% 81.9% -1.95%
- Frederick County: 79.1% 79.3% -0.25%
- Charles County: 78.7% 77.5% +1.55%
- Loudoun County: 78.5% 81.6% -3.80%
- Stafford County: 75.8% 74.1% +2.29%
- Fairfax County: 72.9% 73.4% -0.68%
- Prince William County: 70.5% 72.7% -3.03%
- Montgomery County: 66.9% 68.9% -2.90%
- Alexandria City: 64.9% 62.8% +3.34%
- Prince George's County: 63.7% 68.9% -7.55%
- Arlington County: 54.6% 54.9% -0.55%
- District of Columbia: 37.5% 38.4% -2.34%
If there is a trend here, and admittedly this is our first look at the comparisons, it looks like the region's Drive Alone rate is going down a bit on the whole or at the very least holding steady. Says Lori about the numbers: "The source I used didn't have margins of error listed, but it's true that with most of the changes being small, I'm not sure that we could say much definitively. But with almost all of the Drive Alone rates going down, it's less likely to be due to unrelated factors - that would tend to show some up and some down."
This seems to go against much of the established wisdom and national trends. As the figures came out last week, AP reported (We're Still Taking to the Road Alone, by Stephen Ohlemacher, June 14, 2007) that nation-wide "from 2000 to 2005, the share of people driving alone to work increased slightly to 77 percent, according to a Census Bureau report Wednesday. Carpooling dropped and the share of commuters using public transportation stayed the same."
So what's up with our region? Especially with the folks in Prince George's, Loudoun and Prince William Counties. Could the Green Line have had that kind of affect? Says Lori about the numbers: "I'd guess gas prices have something to do with the change - also congestion. We certainly know that Metro has had an increase in ridership in the past 5+ years and people in the DC area are getting fed up with traffic. I know real estate agents are talking about growing interest for people to move back toward the center of the region to avoid traffic." She's right on all counts. However, as the region sprawls ever outward, options get fewer. Are more people telecommuting or returning to carpooling - which declined at the last census and nation-wide? What do other people think might be going on? Are our TDM agencies starting to make a dent?
It may be too early to call this good news, but until further analysis comes in let's think positively. We'll have to wait for the transportation gurus at MWCOG and other agencies to start crunching the numbers. In the meantime we can be hopeful.
There were some other interesting facts in the Census Bureau Press Release including Portland, Oregon having the highest percentage of bike commuters (3.5%) and Boston the highest percentage of walkers (13%). It will be fun as more facts come out.
Correction from the previous post: As one of our commenters pointed out, WTOP got it wrong and we re-printed it. The Washington D.C. area didn't have the second highest mass transit use in the nation, we were third, behind, New York and San Francisco at 13.2 percent.
Chris Hamilton is the Commuter Services Chief for Arlington County, manager of CommuterPageBlog and a biking/Metro commuter from Rosemont in Alexandria