How are people in the DC region getting to work in 2016?

Initial findings from the Transportation Planning Board’s 2016 State of the Commute analysis

Teleworking is up, driving alone is down, and commuters are, on average, traveling farther and longer.

Today, the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments released the preliminary analysis of its 2016 State of the Commute survey. The regional, triennial report presents a snapshot of how workers in the Washignton, D.C., region get to work, with a specific eye on non-driving alternatives. The data includes responses from commuters not only in the District of Columbia, but the surrounding counties, including Arlington.

In a blog post, the National Capital Transportation Planning Board notes that commutes are getting longer, in both terms of average time and distance. Looking more closely, that range is widening: the segment of those with short commutes is also growing.

The TPB also notes that one of the major, continued trends is the percentage of workers routinely using telework. About 32 percent of all commuters telework approximately 1.5 days per week, and responses indicate potential for an additional 20 percent to telework, if their employers allowed.

telework by sector

Image from the TPB findings summary.

Over the past six years, the percentage of workers teleworking in all job sectors has grown, too, with federal agencies reporting the most telework at 45 percent of workers. By mode, the commuter rail and Metrorail commuters are most likely to work from home some days, while those who bike, walk, and drive are least likely.

While workers who reported teleworking as their main mode grew by 25 percent over the 2013 share (up to 10 percent from 8 percent at that time), carpooling has continued its drop, falling to just 5 percent of the regional modeshare. Meanwhile, driving alone has fallen, and transit and biking/walking have risen slightly.

2016 mode split

Image from the SOC technical report.

However, when it comes to satisfaction, Metro riders were by far the least satisfied with their commutes. Not strangers to delays, malfunctions, and track work, rail riders also reported building in the the second-most time into their commutes. While the survey did not capture the relatively recent effects of SafeTrack on Metrorail commuters, it does depict the general, negative effects on satisfaction, commute time, and planning those riders have been experiencing.

Respondents reported fewer commuter programs than in the past six years.

Respondents reported fewer commuter programs than in the past six years. Image from the TPB findings summary.

There’s room for improvement in commuter benefits, too. A little more than half of employees reported having access to any kind of commute services, which is unfortunately down to 55 percent from 61 percent in 2010. Of those who do have access to employer commute benefits, by far the most popular are subsidies for transit and/or vanpools. Additionally, more than half of commuters said they would be more open to shifting the timing of their commute (i.e. away from peak hours) if given a $3 daily subsidy. Combined with those who are open to teleworking, there’s a high potential for effective transportation demand management programs.

In coming months, Mobility Lab will analyze the State of the Commute data, looking specifically at Arlington County commuting patterns.

Read the rest of TPB’s analysis here.
Report materials: Presentation summary of the 2016 State of the Commute [PDF]
2016 State of the Commute technical report

Information on past Arlington analyses of State of the Commute data

Photo: Commuters leave a Metro train (Sam Kittner for Mobility Lab,

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