Census Figures Show Transit Use Up in Washington Region – PlanItMetro

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Chris is chief of Arlington County Commuter Services in Arlington, Virginia. He specializes in smart growth and urban planning.
November 26, 2012

Transit commuters in the Washington D.C. region are growing in rapid numbers.

According to new figures recently posted at PlanItMetro, the blog of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), transit’s share of commuters rose from 14.6 percent of commuters in 2000 to 19.4 percent in 2011.

In Arlington County, Virginia – just across the river from downtown D.C. – that share grew from 23.3 percent to 28.4 percent. That’s second in the region only to D.C.’s 39.6 percent share and much higher than the next best jurisdiction, Prince George’s County at 19.5 percent.

Upon further examining the numbers, I noticed that the interesting thing is that the rate of growth over these 11 years was best right here in Arlington. That’s very cool news. And it feels great to know that what we’re doing here works.

Some of those things can be found throughout the Mobility Lab website, and include, to name a few:

  • Building the nation’s first bikeshare plan that embeds itself into the overall transit plan
  • Holding Hack Days for enthusiastic local technologists to help us build the best real-time transit information possible, and
  • One of my favorites: this video that briefly explains how the work Arlington County Commuter Services does takes 45,000 car trips off Arlington’s roads every work day and puts those people into other forms of transportation – forms that keep people traveling in and around Arlington healthier and happier.

While the share of commuters who use transit in the region grew by 13.3 percent over the last 11 years, it grew by 20.4 percent here in Arlington.

Chris Hamilton

Why did transit’s share of commuters grow faster in Arlington than elsewhere? Over the last decade, most of Arlington’s new housing has been located in its transit corridors. And Arlington has invested in new transit capacity (the local ART bus service was just a baby in 2000 and is now closing in on 3 million passengers annually) and supporting infrastructure, including a commitment to put map and schedule information at all of ART’s 500 bus stops. But even in the District, new housing is primarily located in transit-friendly neighborhoods and it started the local Circulator bus service in the last decade.

The biggest difference I see between Arlington and its surrounding jurisdictions is in the commitment to outreach and market our options to driving. Outreach programs like:

  • The Commuter Store® in five locations
  • Services provided to employers like Arlington Transportation Partners that help implement transit benefit programs
  • 350-plus retail partners who display neighborhood transit schedules, and
  • Direct mail pieces – to every resident – that include transit system maps, how-to-ride-the-bus, and how-to-read-a-schedule information as part of marketing campaigns like Arlington’s Car-Free Diet.

All these programs try to make it easy for people to use transit. All these programs educate people about the options and encourage them to choose transit. They all make a difference. And the numbers showing the rate of growth over the past 11 years prove it.

  • Arlington 20.4
  • DC 17.6
  • Alexandria 16.4
  • Montgomery 13.4
  • PG 12.4
  • Fairfax 10

Graphic by WMATA

Featured photo by Elvert Barnes

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