Our friends at the Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space blog point us to a thoughtfully written article in this week's Christian Science Monitor (More US Commuters Drive Solo, by Bina Venkataraman; June 25, 2007) about America's commuting habits.
The lead from the article:
"Seventy-seven percent of workers in the United States – more than 102 million people – drive alone to and from work, up from 1990, according to recently released US Census data, based on surveys conducted in 2005. This happened despite the fact that retail gasoline prices rose by 60 cents per gallon in that same 15-year period, controlling for inflation. The news comes amid growing hype about going green, in an age when climate change has become as common a conversation topic as its quotidian counterpart, the weather. It could indicate that when it comes to transit, Americans talk the talk, but – put simply – aren't walking."
Kudos to Ms. Venkataraman for tracking down noted TDM expert Phil Winters from the Center for Urban Transportation Research who says: that the data underestimate how much Americans are commuting without their cars. "The way [the survey asks] the question is, 'What do you usually do?' It misses people who might use the nondrive-alone option two days or less a week." Good point.
And following up on some recent posts that suggest that according to the same data that the Washington, D.C. area seems to be doing something right (Could Region's Drive Alone Rate Be Going Down?, June 19, 2007 and And the Survey Says: DC & Arlington Have Lowest Drive Alone Rates, June 14, 2007) we find out from the Christian Science Monitor article that Washington is the top ranked city in the Country for green commuting:
"Washington is ranked the top city for alternative commuting by SustainLane, a San Francisco business that publishes rankings of US cities based on "sustainability" criteria. The ranking gives separate weight to the share of people carpooling and the share bicycling and walking, which can give indications about road safety, sidewalks, and bike paths. Warren Karlenzig, the company's chief strategy officer, praises Washington's "modern and efficient" public-transit system, broad boulevards, and greenways for encouraging carless travel."
According to the SustainLane 2006 rankings web site:
"Washington, D.C. leads the nation in this category, with the second-highest use of public transit in the nation at more than 33 percent, the highest walk-to-work rating at more than 11 percent, and above-average bike-to-work ratings. Following close behind are #2 New York City, the leader in public transit use at 53 percent, and #3 San Francisco, which has good all-around commute rates in public transit and biking or walking to work. Boston and Philadelphia are #4 and #5, respectively."
And Baltimore comes in at #7 too. How about that. The article and these web site sources are definitely worth a look. Here's hoping that the Metropolitan Washington Council of Government's transportation experts will soon weigh in with their own assessment of all this data and how our region is doing compared to the rest of the country. Sounds like despite all of our traffic congestion problems that perhaps we are doing a bit better than we thought.
Chris Hamilton is the Commuter Services Chief for Arlington County, manager of CommuterPageBlog and a biking/Metro commuter from Rosemont in Alexandria