Solo drivers are dumping cars; more commuters take transit or telework

The number of commuters who telework at least one day a week in the D.C. metropolitan area has nearly tripled since 2004, according to a survey on commuting trends presented Wednesday to the National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board.

And it’s at an all-time high for federal workers.

The Commuter Connections’ 2019 State of the Commute Survey finds that among people who telework, 48% work for the U.S. government and 14% are state or local government employees.

On average, 35% of the region’s workforce teleworks 1.2 days a week.

“That essentially equates to over a million commuters in the region who use teleworking,” said Nicholas Ramfos, Commuter Connections director. “That was quite an eye opener.”

Compared with 2004, the number of commuters driving alone is down; transit use is up.

  • 58% drive alone — down 13 percentage points.
  • 24% take transit — up 7 percentage points.
  • 16.6% use Metrorail.
  • 1.6% use commuter rail.
  • 5.9% take the bus.
  • About 5% car/vanpool.
  • About 2% walk.
  • About 1.6% bike.
  • 0.04% use e-scooters.

Since 2004, the average distance commuted hasn’t changed, but it’s taking 26% longer.

  • The average area commute is 17 miles.
  • The average commute time is 43 minutes.

Ride-hailing services such as Uber and Lyft are used by 1% of commuters to get to work. Asked what they would have done instead:

  • 59% would have taken transit.
  • 28% would have driven alone.
  • 20% would have taken a taxi.
  • 16% would have walked.
  • 9% would have biked.

Solo drivers are the biggest users of express lanes, but they don’t use them as frequently as carpoolers.

  • 73% drive alone using express lanes one or two days a week.
  • Car/van pool drivers use express lanes three to five days a week.

Why do people quit using transit? Survey respondents said the No. 1 reason is that their job or home location moved and transit was no longer available.

More people of all ages are buying cars, but millennials are leading the charge. The number of people younger than 35 who have a vehicle for each adult household member now, compared with 2016:

  • 40% in D.C., Arlington and Alexandria, up from 32%.
  • 67% in Montgomery, Prince George’s and Fairfax counties, up from 58%.
  • 83% in Prince William, Loudoun, Calvert and Charles counties, up from 73%.

You can find the full report and presentation of the 2019 State of the Commute survey on the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments website.

Kristi King

Kristi King is a veteran reporter who has been working in the WTOP newsroom since 1990. She covers everything from breaking news to consumer concerns and the latest medical developments.

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