The Arlington Resident Travel Survey is a report about commuting patterns, non-work travel, and opinions and attitudes around travel of residents of Arlington County, Virginia. Because of the timing of the survey, the report has a unique spotlight on trends and conditions prior to and during the COVID-19 pandemic. Below are some top-level highlights from the report.
- In Summer 2021, 70% of employed Arlington residents were working from home all or most of their workdays: 53% were working from home/teleworking full-time, 17% teleworked three or four days per week. 11% teleworked one or two days per week, and 2% teleworked less than one day per week. 18% did not telework all.
- In February 2020, before the start of the pandemic-related restrictions, only 27% teleworked one or more days per week and 31% teleworked less than one day per week. 42% did not telework at all before the pandemic. Respondents teleworked for only 11% of weekly commute trips.
- In Summer 2021, the average telework frequency was about 3.9 days per week. This was higher than in 2015, where the average telework days per week was 0.5 days. This equates to approximately 96,700 Arlington commuters teleworking on a typical day in summer 2021.
- During the summer 2021, driving alone accounted for 20% of total commute trips and transit was used for about 10%. The remaining 5% was divided among bike/scooter, walk, and carpool/vanpool.
- Nearly eight in ten (79%) respondents said they were productive while they were teleworking, and nearly three-quarters (73%) said they were able to coordinate with co-workers while they were working at home.
- One substantial personal benefit, cited by 79% of respondents who telework, was saving money by not commuting. This was a common benefit across all respondents, but commuters who drove to work before the pandemic were more likely to mention this benefit; 90% who previously drove alone and 94% who carpooled before the pandemic mentioned this benefit, compared with 76% who previously used transit for commuting and 55% of walkers/bikers. Other personal benefits of telework included spending more time with family or friends, noted by 62% of current teleworkers, and feeling less stressed, mentioned by 53%.
- Transit was the primary commute mode for Arlington residents, accounting for nearly 44% of weekly commuting, while driving alone was used for 34% of weekly commute trips. Residents used bike/scooter, walk, and carpool for the remaining 11% of weekly commute.
- If telework days are excluded from both the current and pre-pandemic periods, leaving only the days when commute trips actually were made, driving alone appears to have gained substantial mode share, from 38% pre-pandemic to 57% for the current case.
- By comparison, transit lost substantial mode share; train use fell from 49% to 28%. The results suggest that some commuters shifted away from transit, perhaps due to reductions in transit service, but also likely to minimize the risk of contracting COVID from other passengers.
- Between 2015 and the start of 2020, driving alone had lost 7 percentage points, falling from 45% of non-telework commute days to 38%.
- Use of train modes grew 7 percentage points during this time, from 42% to 49%.
- Results had indicated a declining drive alone rate for Arlington resident workers between 2010 (55%) and 2019 (46%), with a corresponding increase in bus/train use (2010: 28%, 2019: 42%). The February 2020 mode pattern appears to follow this trend.
- Based on information collected in 2021, about half of respondents said they would likely drive alone to work some days after the pandemic, but only one-third (34%) said they would drive alone as their primary mode. More than half (55%) said they anticipated using an alternative mode as their primary mode. More than four in ten (44%) anticipated primarily commuting by train or bus, 10% expected to ride a bike/scooter or walk to work most of their workdays. Ten percent said they would likely telework most of their workdays.
- The distribution of anticipated post-pandemic primary modes is essentially the same as the pre-pandemic distribution, suggesting a return to pre-pandemic commuting patterns is likely for many respondents. About eight in ten respondents who previously drove alone (81%) or rode transit (82%) to work and seven in ten (71%) who biked or walked to work said they were likely to use those same modes after the pandemic ended.
- Nearly nine in ten (87%) respondents who were teleworking at the time of the survey said they would want to telework at least one day per week in the future and 36% said they would want to telework at least three days per week. Only 3% of teleworkers were not interested in continuing to telework.
Non-work travel behavior
- Nearly all (97%) respondents made a non-work trip on either the most recent weekday or the past weekend. Non-work trips were slightly more common on weekends; 94% of respondents made a non-work trip on Saturday or Sunday and 85% made a weekday non-work trip.
- The most common trip purpose overall was to run an errand; 74% of respondents made a trip for this purpose. Shopping and restaurant/meals trips were made by 70% and 66% of respondents, respectively and 58% made a social trip, to visit friends or family. Three in ten (29%) made a trip to an exercise/gym or recreation and 23% made trips for a personal or work-related meeting or appointment. Two in ten traveled to an entertainment activity such as a movie, concert, club, or other activity (20%) or to pick up or drop off another person (20%).
- Three-quarters (74%) of respondents drove alone for at least one recent non-work trip and 27% drove or rode with other people. Nearly half (48%) made a non-work trip by walking. Two in ten (22%) percent rode a bus or train and 16% rode a bicycle or scooter for a non-work trip. Fourteen percent used a ride-hailing service, such as Uber or Lyft.
- A high share (64%) of bus and train commuters used transit for a non-work trip; non-work transit use was much lower for respondents who primarily drove alone (11%) and those who biked to work (16%). Seven in ten (69%) bike commuters rode a bike for a non-work trip, compared with about one in ten respondents in the other commute mode groups. Eight in ten (83%) respondents who walked to work walked also for a non-work trip.
- Among all respondents, 68% used transit at least occasionally for a non-work trip and 12% used transit six or more times per month. This was substantially lower than estimated in the 2015 survey, when 87% of respondents reported at least occasional non-work use of transit and 18% had been frequent riders.
- Six in ten (60%) respondents who lived within one-quarter mile of Metrorail used transit for non-work trips at least once per month and 22% used transit six or more times per month. As the distance increased, use of transit fell; only 25% of respondents who lived more than one mile from Metrorail used transit at least once per month.
- Only 14% of respondents who bicycled for non-work trips did so because they didn’t have a car or other travel options.
- The top two reasons for using a bike were to get exercise (87%) and because bicycle was an enjoyable way to travel (76%). About half (53%) said bike was good for the environment and four in ten said bike was the fastest travel option (42%) or was less expensive than other options (38%).
- About four in ten (38%) respondents said they typically rode a bike at least occasionally for a non-work trip and 8% used a bike six or more times per month. This was essentially the same as the frequencies reported in 2015, when 40% of respondents reported at least occasional non-work use of transit and 8% had been frequent riders.
- More than half of respondents reported increasing their use of walking for non-work trips since the pandemic began; 34% walked somewhat more and 22% walked much more. A small percentage (5%) decreased use of this mode, but walking had a net increase in use of 51%.
- Driving alone also had a net increase; 40% of respondents increased use of this mode and 17% decreased use, for a net increase of 23%.
- Non-work use of biking had a net increase of 12%.
Barriers to bicycle use
- Two-thirds (66%) mentioned factors related to traffic or road conditions/safety and 37% cited deficiencies in the network of bike paths/lanes. One-third (35%) mentioned a personal concern that made it difficult or impossible to bicycle, such as not having a bicycle.
- Both non-riders/infrequent riders and frequent riders reported bike barriers, but infrequent riders typically mentioned general reasons, such as not feeling safe riding, while frequent riders were more likely to cite a specific issue, such as bike lanes not being connected to each other.
Factors that impact transit use
- When asked if any factors significantly limited their willingness or ability to use transit, nearly six in ten (58%) cited a barrier related to time or distance factors; 37% said they would have to wait too long for the bus/train, 35% said transit trips took too long, and 13% indicated that the bus stop or train station was too far from their home. One-third cited an access issue, such as transit did not operate to their typical destination (25%) or at times they typically travelled (13%). Four in ten mentioned an issue related to transit reliability. Three in ten (29%) cited a barrier related to the pandemic; 25% said they were concerned about exposure to Covid-19 while riding a bus or train and 14% were concerned about exposure while waiting at a bus stop/train station.
- When shown a list of nine possible transit improvements, 95% of respondents who had reduced transit use during the pandemic said at least one of the improvements would make them more likely to resume transit use after the pandemic was over.
- The top motivators were improvements that would make transit trips take less time; 87% said more frequent service/shorter wait and 84% said a faster trip would make them at least somewhat more likely to resume previous transit use.
- Seven in ten (71%) said real-time bus arrival information at bus stops and 60% said service that operated earlier or later in the day or on weekends would be a motivator in resuming transit use.
- Frequent transit riders were more likely to be influenced by transit improvements. Nearly eight in ten (78%) who had decreased transit use but were still using transit for non-work trips six or more times per month at the time of the survey said at least one of the transit improvements would make them very likely to resume presumably higher transit use when the pandemic ended.
- Among respondents who were not using transit at all for non-work trips at the time of the survey, 43% cited an improvement that would make them very likely to resume transit use.
Quality of life and level of satisfaction for Arlington’s transportation system
- Nine in ten respondents gave a high QOL rating; 50% gave a rating of 5 (Excellent) and 42% rated their home area QOL as a 4.
- Quality of life ratings were comparable across various areas of the County with one exception; only 87% of respondents who lived in Route 1 were satisfied.
- About seven in ten (71%) respondents countywide were satisfied with Arlington’s transportation system; 8% were not satisfied.
- The 71% satisfaction level from the 2021 survey was higher than the 65% of respondents who had reported being satisfied with transportation in the County in 2015.
- The highest rating for transportation satisfaction (81%) was given by respondents in Rosslyn-Ballston. About seven in ten respondents in Route 1 (75%) and Other North (72%) were satisfied. Respondents in Shirlington (64%), Other South (64%), and Columbia Pike (58%) reported notably lower satisfaction.
- Nearly all (96%) respondents who were satisfied with transportation rated QOL a 4 or 5, compared with 66% of respondents who were not satisfied with transportation.
- When asked to cite the most important transportation needs in Arlington County, 48% mentioned a need related to transit service, such as transit expansion or enhanced service reliability. Two in ten (21%) cited a need focused on improving bike facilities or safety and 12% mentioned a need related to walking or pedestrian facilities. Fourteen percent cited needs focused on highways or roads, such as wider roads or better maintenance. Five percent named a parking-related need.
- Seven in ten (71%) respondents were satisfied with transportation services in their home neighborhood, but satisfaction varied by home area.
- Nearly nine in ten respondents in the Rosslyn-Ballston (88%) and Route 1 (86%) areas gave a high satisfaction rating and about two-thirds of respondents in the Other North (69%) and Shirlington (65%) were satisfied. Only 54% of Columbia Pike respondents and 53% of Other South respondents were satisfied with their neighborhood transportation.
- When asked to rate availability of individual transportation services in their Arlington neighborhood, respondents rated safe sidewalks and bus service as the most widely available services, with 75% and 72% of respondents countywide rating their access to these services as a 4 or 5 (Excellent). Two-thirds gave high ratings for Capital Bikeshare stations (66%) and six in ten gave high ratings for availability of bike lanes/off-street trails (61%) and access to Metrorail (60%). Respondents gave lower ratings for neighborhood street parking (56% rated as a 4 or 5) and carshare (39%).
- The most important features considered in their choice of a transportation mode were reliability or predictability of travel time and total time to make the trip; 95% and 91% of respondents, respectively, rated these as important. Eight in ten (78%) rate safety from crashes or an injury and important feature and 69% of respondents would take into account the illness or health risk they would encounter in using a mode. Being able to use travel time productively or for personal tasks was important to 70% of respondents. Six in ten rated travel cost (61%) and flexibility to make stops or adjust the travel route (60%) as important. The impact of travel on the environment was rated as important by about half (53%) of respondents.
Awareness and use of travel assistance, information, and resources in Arlington County
- Two in ten respondents recalled seeing or hearing an informational message related to transportation in Arlington.
- Ninety-five percent of all respondents had used at least one of nine travel/trip information apps/services on a smartphone or other digital device.
- Eight in ten (80%) had used wayfinding or mapping applications, such as Google Maps and Waze, and 48% had used traffic alerts delivered via text message or other means. About seven in ten (71%) had used an application for a ride-hail service such as Uber, Lyft, or Via and 57% had used an application that tracked transit schedules or provided “next bus/train” information on arrival time.
- 99% of respondents who were under 35 had used a travel/trip information app, compared with about 95% of respondents who were between 35 and 64, and 86% of respondents who were 65 years or older.
- 83% of respondents knew of at least one of the organizations that offered travel information and assistance. The best-known were The Commuter StoreTM and BikeArlington, known to 68% and 61% of respondents, respectively. Four in ten (39%) had heard of WalkArlington.
- About 43% of respondents who knew of an organization had contacted or used it; this represented about 35% of all respondents countywide. One-quarter of all respondents had visited a Commuter StoreTM and 15% of all respondents had used a service provided by BikeArlington. One in ten Arlington respondents had used a WalkArlington service.
- Awareness of the five transit and shared-use services that are operated and/or promoted in Arlington was very high. Nearly all respondents had heard of Capital Bikeshare (97%), Arlington Transit (96%), carshare services (95%), scooter services (95%), and ride-hail services (94%). Three-quarters (77%) of respondents had used a ride-hail service and 61% had ridden an ART bus. Thirty-two percent had used Capital Bikeshare, 25% had ridden a scooter, and 16% had used carshare.
- 53% of respondents said they had heard or seen something about the Car-Free Diet marketing campaign. Of respondents who knew of Car-Free Diet, 3% said they started using a new non-drive alone mode and 18% said they increased use of non-drive-alone forms of transportation. Fourteen percent started or increased how often they make walking trips, 10% started/ increased use of a personal bicycle and 5% started/increased use of Capital Bikeshare. About 7% started/increased use of bus and 6% started/ increased their Metrorail trips. Nearly all respondents said they use travel/trip information applications.
- Two-thirds of respondents who lived in a multi-family building or complex said their building or complex offered travel information and assistance services.
- Half (53%) said the building or complex offered secure bicycle parking and 16% of respondents (about three in ten respondents who had this service available) said they had used it. One-quarter (26%) of respondents reported the availability of transit schedule/route information and 13% cited bike maps or route information as being offered. Of these two, the transit schedules were more often used; more than half of respondents who had access to this service had used it. But one-third of respondents who had access to bike maps/route information had used this service. More than half (55%) who had services available had used them.
Awareness and use of travel information and assistance offered by employers
- The most common services offered were transit subsidies and secure bicycle parking; these services were named by 65% and 50% of respondents, respectively. Forty-two percent said their employers offered showers/lockers for bicyclists. About two in ten respondents said their employers offered each of four services: transit schedule or route information (20%), preferential parking for carpoolers and vanpoolers (18%), bicycle/walking information (17%), and a carpool/vanpool subsidy (17%).
- Nearly nine in ten (89%) District workers said they had access to travel information and assistance services. 80% of respondents who worked in Alexandria, VA and about three-quarters of respondents who worked in Arlington (77%), Maryland jurisdictions in the Washington metropolitan region (76%), and Fairfax County, VA (74%) also said their employers offered these services.
- 44% of Arlington commuters, about two-thirds who said a transit subsidy was available, had used it. About one-third of respondents whose employers provided secure bicycle parking and a similar share with access to showers/lockers for bicyclists had used these services. Two services, transit information and bicycle/walking information, were used by about half of the respondents who said they were offered. Just over one-third (35%) of employed respondents had free worksite parking.
- Nearly nine in ten (86%) respondents who worked in Fairfax County had access to free parking at work. Parking was free for about seven in ten (71%) respondents who worked in Maryland and half (50%) who worked in Alexandria (69%). But only 37% of respondents who worked in Arlington and 20% who worked in the District of Columbia had free parking at work.
- Driving alone was much less common for respondents who had access to incentive/support services than for those who did not. Only 33% of respondents with these services drove alone to work, compared with 54% of respondents whose employers did not offer them.
- Respondents who did not have free parking at work also used alternative modes at much higher rates. Two in ten (22%) respondents who had to pay to park at work drove alone, compared with 60% of respondents who had free parking.
Interested in learning more? Download the 2021 Arlington Resident Travel Survey and Special Analysis report here: 2021 Arlington Resident Travel Survey