New Regional Study Details How Commuters Get To and From Arlington

What proportion of commuters to and from Arlington regularly drive alone, bike, walk, take transit, carpool or vanpool, or telework?

The high-level answer to that question is that, of the 131,300 employed Arlington residents, about 53.3 percent who commute from a home in Arlington usually drive alone, while about 55.3 percent of the 180,300 people who commute to work in Arlington drive alone.

Every commuter has a story, but what’s the “big picture” of how all our neighbors and colleagues who live and work in Arlington County, Virginia make their commutes?

Every commuter has a story, but what’s the “big picture” of how all our neighbors and colleagues who live and work in Arlington County, Virginia make their commutes?

Also:

  • Arlington, like the rest of the region, continues to see big gains in the share of people who telework and bike to work
  • transit use has declined slightly among commuters who live in Arlington, and
  • about a quarter of Arlington residents and people who work in Arlington take transit to work.

Of course, there is a lot more to examine when you take the five State of the Commute surveys together (from 2001, 2004, 2007, 2010, and 2013). Based on the regional 2013 State of the Commute, Mobility Lab analyzed trends that are specific to Arlington County. Here’s a summary from our full report.

Bike and Walk

Biking and Walking Mode Share by Home LocationBiking and Walking Mode Share by Work LocationArlington and the District lead the Washington region in bike and walk commuting.

About 4.5 percent of the people who come to work in Arlington arrive on foot or by bike (3.8 percent or 6,800 people walk while 1,200 people or 0.7 percent bike). The same share of people who go to work in the District bike or walk to their destination. Seven percent of Arlington residents – of whom 5.5 percent or 6,800 people walk and 1.5 percent or 1,800 bike – are the second-most likely to walk or bike to work in the region, behind District residents, at about 10.2 percent.

The popularity of biking and walking has increased since the first State of the Commute surveys. In 2004, for example, the combined share of individuals coming to work in Arlington by bike or on foot was 2.8 percent, and the combined share of Arlington residents biking and walking to work was 4 percent.

Drive Alone

Drive-Alone Commute Mode Share by Home LocationDrive Alone Commute Mode Share by Work LocationThe 53.3 percent of Arlington residents who drive alone to work equals approximately 65,500 individuals. Looking back over time, the drive-alone percentage for Arlington residents declined between 2004 and 2007 (from 56.7 percent to 53.9 percent), but has remained approximately at the same level since then.

The drive-alone rate for Arlington workers did not change significantly from 2004 to 2007, but dropped from 60.2 percent in 2007 to 55.8 percent in 2010, and the 2013 survey found a rate of 55.3 percent, or 99,700 people.

However, the decrease in the share of residents who drive alone (down 6 percent from 2004) has not kept up with the growth in employed people who live in Arlington (up 10 percent, based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics), which means that the number of Arlington residents driving alone has continued to increase over time.

Transit

Transit Mode Share by Home LocationTransit Mode Share by Work LocationGiven that Metrorail ridership peaked in 2009, it’s no surprise that the latest survey shows the share of people who commute to and from Arlington by rail has declined.

In 2004, 25 percent of Arlingtonians commuted by commuter rail or Metro, but by 2013, that share had slid to 18 percent, or 22,100. Meanwhile, nearly 9 percent of employed Arlingtonians (or 10,700 people) commute by bus, a share that has been increasing since 2004.

For those commuting into Arlington, the share of individuals taking commuter rail or Metro peaked in 2010 at 20 percent, with this proportion down to 18 percent (31,700) in 2013. Contrary to the Arlington resident population, the share of people who commute in to Arlington by bus has actually declined since 2004; 15,700 people took the bus to work in Arlington in 2013.

Carpool/Vanpool

Carpool Vanpool Mode Share by Home LocationCarpool Vanpool Mode Share by Work LocationThe share of Arlington residents who carpool or vanpool has stayed steady since 2004, just as it has for the region’s workers. Approximately 7,800 individuals get to work in a carpool or vanpool (most in a carpool). Yet the share of people carpooling or vanpooling to work in Arlington has declined from 10 percent in 2004 to 7 percent (or 12,900) in 2013.

Telework

Only 5 percent of the region’s workers telework most days, while about 7 percent of Arlington residents (or 8,200 individuals) do the same. Among those with jobs based in Arlington, 7 percent (12,300 people) telework most days.

Teleworking is much more popular if you include people who telework only occasionally. About 30 percent of Arlingtonians commute at least “occasionally.” Compare that to 2004, when 13 percent of Arlington-resident commuters teleworked. This pattern has been essentially the same for commuters who work in Arlington, with growth from 13 percent of Arlington workers in 2004 to 30 percent in 2013.

Meanwhile, across the region, the number of people teleworking at least some of the time has more than doubled from 290,000 (or 11 percent) in 2001 to 675,000 (or 27 percent) in 2013.

Mixing and Matching Modes on the Way to Work

It is common to put every commuter in one category, like “transit rider” or “carpooler,” but many commuters use more than one mode to get to work. Some start by driving alone to meet up with a carpool, others bike to a train. Overall, the people who live and work in Arlington are “multimodal” every day.

The majority of Arlington residents who take transit or carpool to work say they walk or take a bike to transit or a rideshare meeting point. About 23,900 walk to a bus or a train and 500 bike to a train. This is not surprising given that the average distance to the transit station or rideshare meeting point is less than one mile for Arlington residents. Some Arlingtonians do start out by driving alone, however. About 800 drive alone to meet up with a carpool or vanpool, and 1,600 drive to a rail station.

Commuters who work in Arlington have access patterns that are similar to that seen in the rest of the region. One-third (33 percent or 20,800) drive to a train station, bus stop, or carpool meeting spot and park their cars there for the rest of the day. Another 20,800 walk to a bus or train. About 1,900 share a ride to a train station, while 8,000 connect to rail from a bus.

Commute Origin and Destination

This distorted map or "cartogram" illustrates where people who work in Arlington come from in the region served by Commuter Connections. Circles are sized according to the number of workers who come from each place. Source: Commuter Connections State of the Commute survey 2013; LDA Consulting.

This distorted map or “cartogram” illustrates where people who work in Arlington come from in the region served by Commuter Connections. Circles are sized according to the number of workers who come from each place. Source: Commuter Connections State of the Commute survey 2013; LDA Consulting.

Three quarters of Arlington residents who work have a job in Arlington or the District. About 14 percent work in Fairfax County. Only 5 percent work in suburban Maryland or other parts of Virginia.

This distorted map or "cartogram" illustrates where employed Arlingtonians go to work in the region served by Commuter Connections. Circles are sized according to the number of Arlingtonians who go to work in each place. About 75 percent of them work in Arlington or the District of Columbia. Source: Commuter Connections State of the Commute survey 2013; LDA Consulting.

This distorted map or “cartogram” illustrates where employed Arlingtonians go to work in the region served by Commuter Connections. Circles are sized according to the number of Arlingtonians who go to work in each place. About 75 percent of them work in Arlington or the District of Columbia. Source: Commuter Connections State of the Commute survey 2013; LDA Consulting.

The people who work in Arlington come from a wider range of home locations. Only 24 percent of all jobs in Arlington are held by Arlingtonians, while another 50 percent come from somewhere else in Northern Virginia. Only 9 percent of the Arlington workforce reverse commutes in from the District of Columbia, but 20 percent come from the Maryland counties of Montgomery, Prince George’s, Calvert, Charles, and Frederick.

Read the full report.

All graphs and infographic by Mobility Lab.

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4 Comments or Mentions

1 Comment(s)

Andreas Z.

The report and extrapolations make for interesting reading.

Also eye-opening is that on average 600 call interviews were conducted for each of the 11 districts. So roughly 6,600 surveys representing a population of 2.7m, which would be roughly a 0.25% of the representative group was actually surveyed.

Does anyone know ballpark figures what an exercise like this costs where up to 30k calls are made to get 6.6k surveys?

I imagine the survey is tri-annual because of the cost. So how much of a difference a more frequent survey would make given the fast changing technology landscape where smartphones are an integral part of our lives?

Thanks
Andreas

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