Collaboration in Civic Spheres

73 percent of commutes in Washington by solo drivers

by Matt Rosenberg January 29th, 2013

Each weekday about three million Washingtonians travel to work. A detailed performance metrics report presented last week to the Washington State Senate’s Transportation Committee finds that nearly three-quarters of those trips are by solo drivers. About 2.2 million or 73 percent drove alone to work in 2010, up slightly in percentage terms though not in raw numbers from 2008. More than 10 percent of Washington work trips were via carpool in 2010. Another 5.4 percent were by transit; 5.6 percent were classified as taxi/motorcycle/bike/walk/other; and 5.3 percent of workers, or telecommuters, travelled only down the hall to their home office to start the work day.

The report says that one objective for the state is to “reduce the percentage of commuters who drive alone to work.” That measure has become an increasingly central baseline indicator of transportation impact on the environment. Compared to solo commutes, carpooling, biking, walking and transit use are considered greener alternatives because there are typically fewer greenhouse gas emissions per passenger. As more and more jobs move away from downtown cores, it becomes more difficult for regions to reduce solo work commutes. However, improving vehicle mileage and continued market penetration of electric vehicles can also help limit the environmental effects of solo work commuting, as can increased telecommuting.

The “mode split” data on commuting are among a range of indicators on mobility, safety, and environmental impacts in the “2012 Biennial Transportation Attainment Report” from the Washington State Office of Financial Management.

Figures are for Washington state. Via 2012 Biennial Transportation Attainment Report, Washington State Office of Financial Management - from American Community Survey data, U.S. Census Bureau

According to the OFM report, walking accounted for 3.49 percent of trips to work by Washingtonians in 2010 and biking for 0.91 percent. This is versus 3.42 percent and 0.69 percent, respectively, in 2007.

Figures are for Washington state. Via 2012 Biennial Transportation Attainment Report, Washington State Office of Financial Management

The report also looks at transit ridership in the four counties of Central Puget Sound, King, Pierce, Kitsap and Snohomish. The overall five year-trend is a 13.3 percent increase, but “with job losses and depressed economic activity between 2008 and 2010, transit ridership dropped 3.3 percent,” the report says.

Via 2012 Biennial Transportation Attainment Report, Washington State Office of Financial Management


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One Response to “73 percent of commutes in Washington by solo drivers”

  1. Julie Watkins says:

    As one of those solo commuters I feel compelled to comment on this subject. If the options were supportive of an alternative commute I would get out of my car in an instant.
    I live in the city in the house I grew up in and moving isn’t an option. I have had jobs in Snoqualmie Ridge, Lynnwood, Bothell and Renton and Everett. The daily drive and fighting the traffic adds such a burden to the long hours already worked. I have researched using the bus and this option includes three transfers and a commute time of around two hours one way, with a long walk at either end to get to and from the bus stop to the jobsite, not to mention dragging the laptop and paperwork needed to finish the job at home because the hours are shorter at work in order to meet the bus schedule. Don’t forget the weather. Compare this to the half hour or so in the car. The only time I was able to use the bus was when I worked for Boeing and there was a special bus that stopped at several park and rides in the city. Drive to the park and ride and get on the bus which ended up at the Boeing gate. That was a dream commute. The topic of not driving solo to work has been discussed many times among my colleagues and most people face the same problem I just described. It isn’t that people don’t want to use alternatives to solo driving, but the options aren’t there to make it feasible for the commuters who are already squeezing hours to manage work and life. The best solution is to be one of those 5.3 percent who travel down the hall to their home office to start the workday!