November 2018


Taqueria Las Tortugas

Despite Long Commute Times, Energy Corridor Workers Steadfast in Driving Alone, Survey Discloses

With apologies to bluesman George Thorogood, when West Houstonians drive to work, they drive alone, with nobody else … according to the latest commuter survey by The Energy Corridor District.

Forgoing vanpools, carpools and public transit, Energy Corridor commuters continue to keep a firm grip on the steering wheels of their personal vehicles. Nearly 82 percent of the 1,442 respondents to The District commuter survey said they drive alone to work.

But the survey also points to signs that West Houston commuters just might consider alternatives to wasting hours toiling through traffic each workweek.

And toil they do.

The majority spend more than an hour each day driving to and from work. Some 20 percent of commuters surveyed rack up 90 minutes to two hours-worth of commute time daily.

Commuters seem willing to make that deal, though respondents said time is the most important consideration when deciding how to get to work. Convenience and reliability, followed by cost, are the remaining deciding factors.

While disheartening to alternative commuting proponents, the number driving alone actually decreased nearly 5 percent since the last Energy Corridor District survey in 2014. Surveys compile information on commuting behaviors and attitudes in and around The Energy Corridor.

“The findings point to opportunities that could help reduce traffic congestion,” says Kelly Rector, TDM program manager for The District.

Schedule shifting, for one.

Low hanging, traffic-mitigating fruit
“We’re an early bunch in The Energy Corridor, with most employees arriving between 7 and 8 a.m.,” explains Rector, “and about 25 percent arriving prior to 7a.m.”. “The most popular departure time is 5 p.m., with nearly one-quarter of respondents typically leaving by then. Relatively few employees leave after 6 p.m. By shifting employees’ schedules, especially later in the day, we could relieve pressure on the existing transportation network.”

But telecommuting, or working from home, hasn’t caught on since the last survey, with a slight decrease during the past two years.

“This is an opportunity to mitigate traffic,” Rector says. “Respondents felt that working remotely was the most realistic alternative commute option after driving to work alone, followed by carpooling.”

While carpooling commuters decreased slightly, commuters using the Addicks Park and Ride rose almost two percent – as did getting to work by bicycle. Those are promising signs that The District hopes will become a trend as it currently works on revamping IH-10 intersections near the METRO facility to create safer passage for bicyclists and pedestrians.

In fact, when it comes to using buses or vanpools, about 38 percent of survey respondents are willing to walk a quarter mile to a pickup spot. Plus, 21 percent commute more than 25 miles one-way, making them good candidates for vanpools, says Rector. Another 13 percent live less than 5 miles away, “a very bikeable distance,” explains Rector.

What would it take to encouraging commuters to use alternative transportation modes? Respondents want more direct transit service, more frequent transit service or cash incentives for not driving alone.

“Similar themes readily became apparent in the survey comments,” Rector says. “The demand for greater public transportation services – such as direct and more frequent service – was the top subject. Respondents also expressed a desire for park and ride services from outlying suburbs to the Energy Corridor. Many want commuter rail along IH-10.”

Right on the tails of more robust transportation services was bicycling, the second most popular comment subject.

Numerous respondents expressed a desire to bike to work, but were dissuaded by safety concerns and limited bicycling infrastructure, such as protected lanes and off-street trails. That and inattentive, often reckless car drivers, commented respondents.

For more findings from the 2017 Energy Corridor commuter survey, visit here.

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