TPB News

How proximity to transportation options affects how you get around—and where you choose to live or work

Oct 11, 2016
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A new slice of data from the TPB’s latest State of the Commute survey paints a picture of the relationship between how close people live to various transportation options, like transit and HOV or Express lanes, and what modes they use to get to work. The survey is carried out every three years by the TPB’s Commuter Connections program to better understand how commuters get to and from work and what they think of their commutes. The latest slice of data also sheds light on how commute considerations factor into people’s decisions about where they live or work.

The closer you live to transit, the more likely you are to use it 

It probably comes as little surprise that people who live closer to rail stations or bus stops are more likely to use transit to get to work. But how much of an impact does it have?

Nearly half of people who live within a half-mile of a Metro, MARC, or VRE station in the region say they take transit to work. That’s more than the 43 percent of people in those areas who say they drive alone. For people who live within a half-mile of a bus stop, 31 percent of people said they took transit to work. 

As might be expected, transit use falls for both groups as distance from a train station or bus stop increases. For rail, it drops to 27 percent for those living between one and three miles from a station. At 10 miles or more, it falls to 13 percent.

Bus-stop proximity shows a similar pattern. At a distance of one to three miles from the nearest stop, about 15 percent report using transit. At 10 miles or more, that number falls to just 4 percent.

The decline in transit use isn’t necessarily linear. For both groups, there is a discernable point at which transit use seems to drop off most. For rail stations, that happens when distance from a station exceeds one mile. For bus, the biggest drop comes at around the half-mile point.

People with access to HOV or Express lanes tend to carpool and vanpool more often

Like access to rail stations and bus stops, one’s proximity to HOV or Express lanes also appeared to influence commute mode choice—by encouraging more carpooling and vanpooling.  In all, the region's transportation network includes about 130 lane-miles of HOV and Express lanes in the region. About 33 percent of survey respondents said there are HOV or Express lanes along their normal route to work. Among those with access to these facilities, carpooling and vanpooling rates are about twice as high as among those without access—9 percentcompared to 5 percent. And nearly half of survey respondents who use HOV and Express lanes for commuting said the avilability of the lanes influenced their decision to carpool or vanpool. 

SOC2016.CarpoolModeSharebyHOVExpressAvailability1

These findings suggest that HOV and Express lanes can achieve their intended purpose—to incentivize carpool or vanpool use by providing faster or more reliable alternatives to driving in congested general-purpose travel lanes. 

Commute factors outweigh most others when people make decisions about where to live or work 

If you’ve ever considered the commute implications of changing where you live or work, you’re not alone. According to the survey, more than a third of people who changed their home or work location sometime in the last year considered commute-related factors in making their decision. Commute length was a factor for 1 in 4 people—more than any residential or career-focused factor mentioned, including housing cost, quality of neighborhood, or career advancement. And nearly 40 percent of respondents said that commute factors were the most important or only factors they considered. 

SOC2016.FactorsConsidered

When people were considering the commute implications of their potential move, they were looking at the access to different travel options that they would be gaining—or losing—by moving. Of all the options considered, access to a Metro station was most often cited, with 35 percent of people saying that it was a factor in their decision. People also considered access to bus stops (18%), park-and-ride lots (8%), HOV lanes (5%), Express lanes (5%), and protected bike lanes (5%).

MORE: Technical report of 2016 State of the Commute survey findings 

RELATED: 4 ways commuting in the Washington region has (or hasn’t) changed over the last 3 years 

The “State of the Commute” survey is conducted by Commuter Connections, a TPB program promoting commute modes other than driving alone. The survey asks approximately 6,000 area commuters about a broad range of topics, from commute patterns and commute satisfaction to awareness of Commuter Connections outreach and access to different transportation modes and alternative commute mode services. The survey has taken place every three years since 2001.

Learn more about State of the Commute and see past survey reports

Learn more about the TPB’s Commuter Connections program 

Cover photo by BeyondDC on Flickr

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