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Public transit use in Frederick Co. doubles in last decade

Kimba Green, left, uses shared office space Thursday at Cowork Frederick. Green is one of many Frederick County residents who avoid a long commute by working from home. Working at the right is Beth Mende Conny. (Frederick News-Post/Sam Yu)

Suzanne Carroll takes the MARC train from Monocacy Station to her job in Rockville every workday. She used to drive, but the I-270 traffic became too stressful, she said.

About four years ago, she made a choice that almost 3,000 workers old enough to drive in Frederick County made in 2011– she began to commute by public transit.

Carroll’s commute is now less hectic, despite occasional MARC train delays, she said.

“You can either read a book, take a nap, work on your laptop,” she said. “It’s just more comfortable.”

The car is still king of the commute. About 78 percent of Frederick County commuters drove alone to work in 2011, but that is down 1.69 percent from 2000, American Community Survey data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows.

It is unclear whether that figure represents an actual decrease in the rate of commuters by car because it is within the margin of error, but the growing portion of workers 16 and older who are choosing to take public transit or work from home instead of driving implies that it may be declining.

BY THE NUMBERS

  • Workers 16 and over who drove alone in 2011* – 93,474, 77.56 percent
  • Workers who drove alone in 2000* – 81,092, 79.25 percent
  • Workers who carpooled in 2011* – 14,073, 11.68 percent
  • Workers who carpooled in 2000* – 12,665, 12.38 percent
  • Workers who took public transportation in 2011 – 2,833, 2.35 percent
  • Workers who took public transportation in 2000 – 1,405, 1.37 percent
  • Worked at home in 2011 – 6,757, 5.61 percent
  • Worked at home in 2000 – 4,088, 4 percent
  • Walked to work in 2011 – 2,432, 2.02 percent
  • Walked to work in 2000 – 2,413, 2.36 percent

    * Not a statistically significant change.

Source: Census Bureau’s American Community Survey

The portion of workers 16 and older using public transit increased slightly almost 1 percent between 2000 and 2011. The amount of people who reported commuting by public transit almost doubled to 2,833.

Usage for Meet-the-MARC, a commuter shuttle service, followed a similar pattern, according to data from TransIT. Meet-the-MARC ridership more than doubled between 2000 and 2011 to 28,074 rides.

TransIT has no plans to expand the Meet-the-MARC service despite increasing demand, said Carrie Watters, TransIT planner and project manager.

However, city of Frederick transportation planners have proposed an expansion of the MTA commuter bus at the Monocacy park and ride as part of the Annual Transportation Priorities Review for 2013.

The portion of people working from home increased about 1.6 percent between 2000 and 2011, and the amount of people working from home increased two and a half times to 6,757.

Social media trainer Kimba Green works from home and a cooperative office space, Cowork Frederick, after commuting from Frederick to Falls Church, Va., and Reston, Va., for three years.

The trip used to take her six hours round trip, she said. When she works from Cowork Frederick, the commute is 15 minutes.

Feeling part of the community in Frederick and not having the stress of the drive were the main factors in her decision to work from home, she said.

“I think I get more done,” she said, “Not having that stress on me, I think I’m more productive.”

She also pointed out that even though she was earning more at her job in Northern Virginia, the commute was expensive.

The changes in commuting habits might imply a trend toward fewer cars on the road in Frederick, but the number of commuters driving alone actually grew about 15 percent in 2011 from 2000, taking into account the increase of growth in the workforce.


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