Every three years, Commuter Connections, the regional transportation demand management (TDM) program of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, commissions a survey of workers in the Washington, DC region in order to understand commute behavior, commute satisfaction, and awareness of TDM programs.
In addition to the results that Commuter Connections publishes for the region, Mobility Lab gets a special tabulation of data for Arlington County. This tabulation covers two overlapping groups: those who work in Arlington and those who live in Arlington. The latest survey, from 2013, is the fifth triennial survey (the first was conducted in 2001), although differences in the structure of the survey limit some comparisons to 2001 and 2004 results.
The State of the Commute survey series provides a standardized, comprehensive picture of commute behavior, and can the results can be a source of performance measures for Arlington County Commuter Services (ACCS), as well as the rest of the county. For more about the background and methodology of the surveys, click here, or scroll to the bottom of the page.
- Among Arlington-resident commuters, the share who primarily drive alone has remained about the same since 2007 after declining from 2004. After a decline between 2007 and 2010, the share of people with jobs in Arlington who primarily drive alone to work remains at 2010 levels
- The combined share of people biking and walking to work continues to increase.
- Telework adoption continues to increase, and a majority of Arlington workers hear about telework from their employers.
- When compared with other TDM programs in the region, Arlington County Commuter Services has high name recognition among its target commuters.
- Those who work in Arlington and District of Columbia are the most likely in the region to have access to TDM benefits and services, such as employer-paid transit fares, and on-site showers for those who bicycle to work.
- Arlington employees continue to receive free parking at the workplace at rates higher than in the District of Columbia (though lower than Alexandria), even when looking only at the Metrorail corridors.
- Regional, statewide, and national surveys like State of the Commute allow local jurisdictions to piggy back on the research efforts of others, and obtain useful data at a lower price than if they were to field their own studies.
- The State of the Commute survey is starting to incorporate geographic data into its data collection. The 2013 study was the first in which respondents were ask to describe the routes that they took to work. However, the application of this data has proven difficult, so far, because it was collected as a set of answers to questions, not as geographically referenced routes in a GIS.
Who lives in Arlington? Who works in Arlington?
Arlington-resident respondents closely mirror the regional population of workers in terms of gender and household income. But a greater share of Arlington residents are white than among the regional population and Arlington residents are slightly younger than the region’s residents.
Meanwhile, Arlington workers are similar to the regional population in age and race/ethnicity, but have higher annual household incomes than the regional average.
In terms of basic work patterns, only one in ten respondents who live in Arlington report that they work at home every day, most of whom are self-employed, though there are a few people who have a job to which they telework every day.
The vast majority of respondents (93 percent) work a standard five-days-per-week schedule; 6 percent have a “compressed work week,” in which they work longer hours each day but for fewer days over a given period. The majority of these people had a “9/80” schedule (a schedule in which someone works four, nine-hour days along with one, eight-hour day for one work week, followed by four nine-hour days in the second work week).
Home and Work Location
Arlington imports workers; it is a work destination, and while only 5 percent of the region’s workers live in Arlington, it is home to 7 percent of the region’s jobs.
About a quarter of Arlington’s employees live in the county, though that number has declined from 26 percent in 2001 to 24 percent in 2013. The share of employees from Maryland has also declined from about 24 percent to 19 percent. Since the 2001 survey, the other counties of Northern Virginia have been home to about half of Arlington’s employees, growing from 45 percent to 48 percent. The share of Arlington employees reverse commuting from DC has also grown from 5 percent in 2001 to 9 percent in 2013.
Availability and Use of Commute Services
Awareness of local commuter-service organizations, like ACCS, Virginiaries greatly around the region. Awareness of ACCS is behind only PRTC/Omni Match in Prince William County, Virginia and TransIT Services in Frederick County, Maryland. Of respondents who lived and/or worked in Arlington, 44 percent have heard of either ACCS or The Commuter Store. Loudon County’s Office of Transportation has similarly high awareness.
Use of ACCS was also high; 25 percent of those who knew of ACCS or The Commuter Store (or 11 percent of those live or work in Arlington County) say they have contacted or used one of the programs. This rate is statistically the same as that for Loudon County’s program, and behind PRTC’s, though higher than for TransIT Services.
Arlington residents have greater awareness of ACCS/The Commuter Store than those who work in Arlington. Half (52 percent) of Arlington-resident commuters said they had heard of one of these services, compared with 40 percent of respondents who work in Arlington. These percentages are about the same as those observed in 2010; though they represent a slight increase over the 2007 figures.
It’s notable that the other high-use programs are located in outer jurisdictions (Frederick, Loudoun, and Prince William). LDA Consulting (the firm that analyzes the survey results) speculates that because outer-jurisdiction commuters encounter more congestion in their travel and have longer commute times and distances, they are more likely to seek options for travel to work. Another factor is that the Frederick, Loudon, and Prince William Counties’ programs are part of transit agencies, which could be boosting their brand recognition.
Arlington residents and workers are more likely than the region’s employees to say that they had seen, heard, or read advertising about commuting in the past year. Among resident commuters, the rate was 66 percent and among workers, this rate was 61 percent, higher than the regional average of 55 percent.
Of those who say that they had heard or seen a message, about 37 percent of all the region’s commuters, 43 percent of Arlington-resident commuters, and 40 percent of those who commute to a job in Arlington can name a specific message.
For Arlington residents, two messages stand out
- “[u]se the bus, train, Metrorail”
- “[w]ay to go, Car Free Diet, give up car for a day”
For Arlington workers, three messages stand out:
- “[u]se the bus, train, Metrorail”
- “Bicycle message, ride a bike to work, Capital Bikeshare”
- “HOT lanes”
Commuters who live in Arlington and those who work in Arlington are about as likely as those around the rest of the region to take action after seeing a marketing message; about 8 percent of respondents who live in Arlington and 8 percent who work in Arlington take action. About half of these respondents say that they try or start using a new alternative mode for commuting.
Commute Service Web Sites and Phone Numbers
Arlington employees are slightly more likely to say that they know of a commute information resource organization than the region’s commuters overall. Sixt-seven percent of Arlington workers say they know of such an organization, compared with 62 percent of all regional workers. That is a higher rate than found in 2010 (75 percent), but still above the 57 percent reported by Arlington workers in 2007.
Arlington respondents are slightly more likely to be aware of a specific resource than the average regional worker; 32 percent of respondents who live in Arlington and 30 percent of those who work in Arlington can name a specific number or web site, compared with 25 percent of all regional workers.
The most widely-known numbers or websites named are those sponsored by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) or Metro. Fifteen percent of regional respondents, 23 percent of respondents who live in Arlington and 16 percent of those who work in Arlington name a WMATA number or website. Arlington County resources are not well known regionally (0.4 percent), but 3 percent of Arlington residents and 4 percent of Arlington workers can name them. Arlington residents and Arlington workers are able to name Commuter Connections at about the same rate as all other commuters in the region. A small percentage of respondents can also recall many other organizations.
TDM Offerings at Work
Arlington workers enjoy greater access to commute-assistance services at their worksites than do workers in nearly all parts of the Washington metropolitan region. Workers in the District of Columbia (75 percent) have equivalent access to that of Arlington workers. By contrast, only about half of respondents who work in Montgomery County, Maryland (52 percent), Alexandria, Virginia (51 percent), and Fairfax County, Virginia (49 percent). Commute service availability is even lower in other jurisdictions.
Within Arlington, as in the rest of the region, government workers are more likely than non-profit and for-profit firms to have access to TDM. Those who work for larger organizations are also more likely to have access to TDM.
Respondents who work in Arlington have greater access to every kind of commute service when compared to the region as a whole. The most commonly offered service across the region is SmarTrip/subsidies for transit and vanpool, which 38 percent of all regional workers say is available to them. A considerably higher share (56 percent) of Arlington workers report access to this service. The availability of most services has been steady since 2007, but looking over multiple surveys suggests that bike/walk services and preferential parking have become more prevalent over time.
Use of commute services has increased since the 2007 survey. Most recently, 60 percent of employees who say they have access to commute services have used at least one of the services compared to 49 percent in 2007. Transit and vanpool subsidies have seen strong increases in use since 2007, as have bike/walk services. Use of carpool/vanpool preferential parking and carpool subsidies has declined.
Parking at Work
Both those who live in Arlington and who have jobs in Arlington are considerably less likely than other commuters in the region to have free parking at work; only 50 percent of Arlington employees and residents say that they have free parking, compared with 63 percent of workers region-wide, though in the District of Columbia, only 30 percent have access to free parking.
The parking-cost situation for those who work in Alexandria is similar to that for the region as a whole, with 72 percent of workers reporting free parking on-site or off-site, a much higher share than was noted by Arlington workers. This finding indicates that Alexandria, while located, along with the District and Arlington, in the area of the region defined as the “core,” exhibits a parking cost profile that is more suburban than the other two core jurisdictions. Finally, nine in ten Fairfax County workers said they had free parking at work; only 7 percent paid or would pay for any portion of their parking cost.
However, when looking back over the 2007, 2010, and 2013 surveys together, only about 38 percent of employees within the Metro corridors have offered free parking, which means that the corridors are closer to the District in terms of free-parking provision.
The percentage of Arlington workers with free parking has changed very little in recent years, declining only slightly.One interesting thing to note is that most employees work for firms where they either pay the full cost of parking or the employer pays the full cost of parking; only 12-14 percent of employees contacted through the State of the Commute surveys split the cost.
When free parking is available in Arlington, use of that parking is generally quite high, with at least eight in ten employees using the parking that is offered to them. One notable exception to this finding is that employees who work in the Metrorail Corridors use free parking at a considerably lower rate (67 percent) than those employees who work outside the Metrorail Corridors (93 percent). This finding suggests that the range of travel alternatives, combined with the commute assistance services available to employees, in the Metrorail corridors make driving a less attractive option, even when free parking is available.
Employees who say that they do not have access to free parking at work are more likely to report that they have access to TDM services, while employees with free parking are less likely to have TDM. More than three-quarters of employees who do not have free parking report having TDM services, compared with about seven in ten respondents who say free parking is available. Furthermore, the prevalence of financial incentives is higher at workplaces without free parking. Since charging for parking is a powerful form of TDM, it seems that there are sharp contrasts in what firms do for efficient transportation.
This disparity of service availability has increased since 2007. In that year, the rates were approximately the same (no free parking – 72 percent TDM services available, free parking – 69 percent TDM available). In 2010, 79 percent of employees without free parking reported having TDM services, compared with 72 percent of employees with free parking. Now, 80 percent of employees without free parking report having services, compared with 65 percent of employees who have free parking.
Because Arlington is part of the region’s job center, it’s no surprise that Arlington residents have shorter commutes, in terms of distance, than the regional average. On average, Arlingtonians have a commute distance half that of the region. However, the Arlington workforce has commute distances similar to the region as a whole (14.7 miles compared to 16 miles).
The 28-minute travel time for commuters who live in Arlington was less than the regional average of 36 minutes, but not proportionately shorter considering the differences in commute miles. This is likely due to Arlington residents’ higher than average use of transit, bike, and walk for commuting. Commuters who work in Arlington spend about the same amount of time commuting as all regional commuters (37 minutes compared to 36 minute).
Both Arlington residents and commuters who work in Arlington drive alone to work much less than all regional commuters as a whole and they make more commute trips by transit. Arlington residents and Arlington workers also drive alone less than residents and workers in neighboring jurisdictions, with the exception of the District of Columbia.
Only the District of Columbia had a lower resident drive alone rate (38 percent) than Arlington’s. But Arlington residents’ drive alone rate was lower than the rate for Alexandria residents, the third jurisdiction in the urban core (62 percent), and much lower than the rate for Fairfax County, its neighbor to the west. Arlington residents commute by transit, bicycle, and walking at slightly higher rates than did residents of Alexandria and much more than Fairfax residents.
The drive-alone percentage for Arlington residents declined between 2001 and 2004, but has remained approximately at the same level since then. Use of bike/walk and telework increased between 2004 and 2013, but transit use declined over that time period, from 31 percent of weekly trips in 2004 and 2007) to 27 percent of trips in 2010 and 26 percent of trips in 2013.
The drive alone rate for Arlington workers did not change significantly from 2004 to 2007, but dropped from 60 percent in 2007 to 55 percent in 2010, as has remained stable since then. Transit use increased correspondingly for Arlington workers from 21 percent in 2004 to 27 percent in 2010 and 26 percent in 2013.
Biking and Walking to Work
The share of trips made by bike/walk is considerably higher for Arlington residents (7 percent) than for the region as a whole (2 percent). This is second only to the rate in the District of Columbia. Approximately 4 percent of those with jobs in Arlington bike and walk to work, which is also one of the higher rates for workers in the region, though basically the same as Alexandria and the District.
Based on commute times and distances reported by Arlington residents, biking is faster than Metrorail, bus, and walking.
We should note, however, that the combined bike/walk share is not evenly divided between the two; for residents, 1.7 percent of commute trips are made by bike, while 5.1 percent are made by walking; for Arlington workers, only 0.7 percent of commute trips are made by bike, while 3.6 percent were made by walking.
Respondents who live in Arlington show no significant differences in choice of primary commute mode when comparing various demographic groups.
The one exception to this is that Arlington residents who worked in the District of Columbia are substantially less likely to drive alone and more likely to ride a train to work than those who work in Virginia or Maryland. Also, the number of vehicles available at the household is a significant determinant of mode choice; those without a vehicle are unlikely to drive alone to work.
Nearly six in ten (59 percent) said they walked/bicycled to transit or a rideshare meeting point and 15 percent used a bus or other transit. Only five percent drove to the transit stop or station or rideshare meeting point and parked their cars for the rest of the day. 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, while the distance is three miles or more for Arlington workers and the region.
Commuters who work in Arlington, have access patterns that are similar to the regional pattern. One-third (33 percent) drive to the meeting point and park their cars there for the rest of the day. One-third (34 percent) walk or bike to the meeting point.
The shares of both Arlington residents and Arlington workers who telework has grown steadily since 2004. In 2004, 13 percent of Arlington resident commuters teleworked. By 2010, the percentage had risen to 26 percent and is now at about 30 percent. 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.
An additional 17 percent of Arlington resident commuters and 19 percent of commuters who work in Arlington do not presently telework, but “could and would” telework if given the opportunity. These respondents say their job responsibilities would allow them to telework and they would like to telework.
The largest source of telework information for teleworkers who work in Arlington is “special program at work/employer,” named by 72 percent of teleworkers, a figure that is approximately the same as noted in 2010 (73 percent). However, employers have increased their promotion of telework in recent years; in 2004, only 49 percent of teleworkers who worked in Arlington named the employer as the source of information.
The availability of telework arrangements for employees who work in Arlington and the use of formal telework arrangements have both grown since 2004. On average, Arlington resident teleworkers telework about 1.3 days per week; teleworkers who work in Arlington teleworked 1.5 days per week.
HOV Lane Use
Three in ten (31 percent) Arlington residents say that there is an HOV or express lane along their route to work and 10 percent of residents use the lanes. Those proportions are about the same as those for workers region-wide. However, commuters who travel to jobs in Arlington note much higher HOV/express lane availability and use: 50 percent of these commuters report lane availability and 18 percent say that they use an HOV lane.
Six in ten (62 percent) Arlington workers who use the lanes for commuting say that availability of the lane influenced their decision to carpool, vanpool, or ride transit (remember that commuter buses are able to travel in the HOV lanes) for their commute. This is nearly twice the percentage of Arlington resident HOV users, 33 percent of whom who say that HOV lanes influence their mode choice.
Arlington workers who regularly use the HOV/express lane estimate that using the lanes saves them an average of 26 minutes for each one-way trip, twice the 12-minute saving that Arlington residents receive when they used the lanes, which is probably due to the fact that Arlington-resident commutes are shorter in distance.
Residents of Prince William County use HOV lanes at a much higher rate than do residents of all other jurisdictions; 53 percent of Prince William County residents who have lanes available have used them. In most other jurisdictions, only about one-quarter to one-third of respondents who have access to HOV lanes use them.
The lower awareness among Arlington residents of park and ride (P&R) lots could be because so many of these commuters do not have any P&R lot available. But it is also likely that awareness of specific locations could be low because a much larger share of Arlington resident commuters walk to the location where they start their transit or carpool trip and thus do not need to park at a P&R lot. Only about 1 percent of commuters who live in Arlington said they used a P&R lot when commuting during the past year.
This is less than the 7 percent of all regional commuters who had used P&R lots and much less than the 13 percent of commuters who work in Arlington who say they used a P&R lot when commuting during the past year.
Commuters who live or work in Arlington are about as likely as commuters region-wide to report a more difficult commute than they had in the previous year; 23 percent of regional respondents, 20 percent of Arlington resident commuters, and 21 percent of commuters who work in Arlington give this response.
The result for Arlington workers continues a trend of improvement over the past four SOC surveys. In 2004, 35 percent of Arlington workers reported a more difficult commute. In 2007 and 2010, the percentages were 25 percent and 27 percent, respectively.
Seventy-one percent of Arlington residents say that they are satisfied with their commute, higher than the 63 percent for all regional respondents. Arlington residents’ commute satisfaction is among the highest in the Washington metropolitan region. Commuters who work in Arlington are slightly less satisfied; 66 percent said that they are satisfied.
Respondents who live in the central part of the region are notably more satisfied with their commute than respondents who live farther from the region’s core. Seventy-three percent of District of Columbia and Alexandria residents and 72 percent of Arlington residents are satisfied, compared with less than two-thirds of residents of other jurisdictions. Only about six in ten (62 percent) residents of Fairfax County, Arlington’s neighbor to the west, rate themselves as “satisfied” or “very satisfied.”
When asked about transportation in general, commuters region-wide are less satisfied with transportation in the region than with their particular commute. But Arlington residents again give higher ratings than did respondents across the region; 56 percent of Arlington residents say they are satisfied with the regional transportation system, compared with 49 percent of the respondents region-wide.
Respondents who live in Arlington give similar ratings for transportation satisfaction, regardless of the type of transportation they primarily use to get to work. Train riders gave slightly lower ratings, but the apparent differences are not statistically significant.
Among respondents who work in Arlington, however, those who drive alone and those who carpool or vanpool give notably lower ratings for transportation satisfaction; about four in ten of respondents in these two mode groups report that they are satisfied, compared with about seven in ten transit riders and 56 percent of respondents who bike or walk to work. The authors of the survey report believe that transit, biking, and walking are more positive about the transportation system because these commuters do not need to drive and can avoid traffic congestion.
The 2013 survey, like past surveys, was a random-digit-dialing telephone survey of employed individuals in the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments Region. Residents received calls between January and April, 2013. The smallest units of geography for which we get data are 10 and counties in Maryland and Virginia, as well as the District of Columbia. Commuter Connections hired LDA Consulting and CIC Research of San Diego, California to field the survey and analyze the survey responses.
Commuter Connections and its consultants take a variety of measures to make sure that the survey sample is as representative of the region’s workers as possible. First, the survey has quotas set up for each jurisdiction, meaning that the interviewers had to reach at least 575 people from every one of the 11 counties, for a total of 6,335 respondents.
The cities of Falls Church and Fairfax did not have separate quotas, and any respondents from these cities are included in results for Fairfax County; respondents from the cities of Manassas and Manassas Park are included in the responses for Prince William County.
The survey is offered in both English and in Spanish, and interviewers called both landlines and cell phones in order to capture individuals who only have cell phones.
After the calls were complete, but before analysis began, the records were weighted using data from Bureau of Labor Statistics about the number of employed people in each jurisdiction. And finally, records were weighted according to Census information about the racial and ethnic makeup of the region’s workforce.
Since this survey series is about commutes, neither the 2013 nor prior surveys captured information about the unemployed or not in the labor force (such as children and retired persons). There are no questions about non-work trips. Finally, the State of the Commute surveys do not capture information that tells us about neighborhoods. Any mentions of trip characteristics for individuals who live or work in Arlington’s Metrorail Corridors are based on analysis of pooled responses from the 2007, 2010, and 2013 surveys.
Documents for Download
Full Arlington Summary Results Report, Including Appendices (PDF, 2.6 MB)
Survey Methodology, Report Appendix A (PDF, 200 KB)
Survey Questionnaire, Report Appendix B (PDF, 300 KB)
Data Tables (XLSX, 200 KB)