Georgetowners Continue to Get to Work More and More Without Driving

Last year, GM took a look at the then new Census numbers which for the first time produced reams of datasets for communities as small as Georgetown. One of those data sets GM took a particular interest in was the dataset stating how Georgetowners get to work. Here’s what GM found last year about the daily transportation choices Georgetowners make:

  • Drive to work – 40%
    • 35% drive alone
    • 4% carpool
  • Transit – 22%
  • Bike – 3%
  • Walk – 25%
  • Other – 10% (mostly people who work at home)

This data came from the American Community Survey, which uses samples to arrive at their results. Unlike the Census itself, which is a snapshot every ten years, this data represents an average over five years. So last years numbers essentially were saying that on an average day between 2005 and 2009, this is how Georgetowners traveled.

Last December the new numbers were released. These are also averages over five years, but now it’s 2006 to 2010. So while it’s not a snapshop, comparing the numbers to the previous year shows which direction the numbers are going. So without further ado, here are the updated numbers:

  • Drive to work – 35%
    • 31% drive alone
    • 3% carpool
  • Transit – 24%
  • Bike – 3%
  • Walk – 26%
  • Other – 12%

The biggest difference is that Georgetowners appear to be leaving the car at home more and more: there was a drop of drivers by 5%. Transit use picked up a couple of those percents, while walking and telecommuting picked up the rest. It can safely be said now that the majority of Georgetowners either take transit or walk to work.

This continues the dramatic fall in car use that was shown between 2000 and 2005-2009. According to the 2000 numbers, 46% of Georgetowners drove to work and on 16% took transit. If these trends continue, as soon as two years from now the ACS numbers would show more Georgetowners taking the bus to work than those driving to work.

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8 Comments

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8 responses to “Georgetowners Continue to Get to Work More and More Without Driving

  1. Michael Radosevich

    This is why we need to end the tyranny of the automobile. Roughly two out of three Georgetowners do not drive during the rush hours. Add to this the many students and retired people and stay-at-home parents, and probably less than 20% of Georgetowners drive during the rush hours.

    Despite this, our streets are designed as high-speed “thruways” with little police enforcement. Most of the racer-commuters are from Virginia or Maryland, while people who live here are ignored and treated as second-class citizens.

    Our ANC need to work for us on this issue. We may not have true “home rule” but we should have control of our streets. Enforce speed limits and stop signs. Bar turning onto “cut throughs” like Bank Street, 33rd, etc. at rush hours. Enforce the laws on streets like K, M, O, P, and R. Lower the speed limits to 20 mph and enforce it. Oh and bar huge SUVs from using N Sreet east of Wisconsin Avenue while you’re at it.

    In short, our community is dominated by walkers and bus riders. It should be designed for us, not the racing commuters from Virginia and Maryland.

  2. RNM

    Something else happened during the window that was being looked at for the decline….the world economy fell to shambles. Unemployment rates shot up. A lot of people didn’t drive to work not because it wasn’t their preferred method to get there, but because they no longer had a job to go to. Georgetown is not immune to that, and statistically the blip from 35-40 percent looking at two points in time is only marginally interesting and less so when put in context a larger trends.

    When I read a response like Michael’s it reminds me that what some of the residents in Georgetown want is to live in a gated community not in a city. I wish they had thought about that before moving into Georgetown, which is part of a urban landscape. Reducing already low speed limits, really? Calling for draconian police enforcement, really? Add this to other posters on here who have called for blocking non residents from entering the neighborhood during high traffic times and you start to get a picture where some of you really don’t enjoy living in a vibrant and busy area…and then want to impose your desire upon those of us who have over two decades in Georgetown by continuing to make it less livable not more. Why not just put up guard gates and walls? How about barricades and check points? Maybe we will have to produce papers to drive and park on city streets…which I will point out are paid for with tax dollars from all who use them (federal grants bring in those commuters). If you want to live in a sleepy southern town, I can suggest a few.

    Ultimately, I rest in the knowledge that the practical realities mean that few if any of the the suggestions could be implemented. There will be ebbs and flows in the rate of usage of various commuting means…but the car is part of our society and arguably one of tools that led to the great expansion of our society so wishing it gone will not make it happen.

    For the record, I drive. I also walk. I also bike. I take the even numbered 30s and have done all of the above for 20 years. (I didn’t even need some snooty Circulator bus to get me on board) Each form has its place in our scheme. I also think it is funny all the effort to improve biking in DC in that same period of time…and absolutely no statistical change in bike commuting in our area. Interesting that the anti car zealot and pro bike advocate seem to bury that.

  3. asuka

    RNM is one of the only voices of reason on this blog. We live in a city, not a gated community. If you don’t like rubbing shoulders with those icky, unenlightened suburbanites from (gasp!) Virginia and Maryland, then perhaps you should reconsider where you’ve chosen to live, instead of trying to force the rest of the world to conform to your politics. “Oh and bar huge SUVs from using N Sreet east of Wisconsin Avenue while you’re at it” – really?

  4. Topher

    @RNM

    Interesting theory, unfortunately the numbers don’t support it.

    Remember, these aren’t snap shots. They’re averages. And the change means that simply by shifting the window ahead one year, the averages changed. So it’s not accurate to say that it’s based upon two points in time. It’s based on two windows of five years worth of sampling.

    And more to the point, if you’re theory is that the economy meant fewer people were going to work, you don’t explain why drivers are more affected. And besides, if your theory were correct there would be fewer people commuting overall, yet the 2010 numbers show 250 MORE people traveling to work from Georgetown vs the 2009 numbers. And even though there were on average 250 more people traveling to work from Georgetown in the more recent set, there were about 150 fewer people driving to work. The pie got bigger and yet drivers’ slice got smaller. Every other category of commute mode grew between 6-25% in real numbers, yet driving dropped 8%.

    Let’s put it this way: in 2000 there were 2,500 people in Georgetown who drove to work. Over the past five years, that number is averaging about 1,860, and dropping. That’s a 26% drop over a time when the number of commuters was essentially flat (there was a 1% drop in commuters between 2000 and 2010).

    And your snark about bikes is misplaced too. In 2000, the city had approximately 3,000 bike commuters. Now it’s 9,200. So, yeah the investments the city has made in biking has resulted in more bikers, citywide. True the numbers haven’t changed as much for Georgetown, but it’s not like the city has put much investment in bike infrastructure in Georgetown specifically. Put a cycletrack on M St. with a direct connection to similar lanes on L, M, and Pennsylvania, then you’ll see a more significant shift. But right now we’ve got a lot of people who think speeding in their cars has anything to do with a city’s vibrancy, and hence not enough people feel comfortable riding their bikes through Georgetown.

    @Asuka

    I love rubbing shoulders with people from a variety of background. It’s rubbing bumpers as I’m trying to cross the street that I don’t like. Maybe next time you visit DC you can see what I’m talking about.

  5. RNM

    Topher:

    Respectfully there are lies, damn lies and statistics. I fully expect you to spin the statistics to have great meaning so as to support your anti car view of the community.

    Again, lets look beyond the confines of the soon to be walled, gated and car free Georgetown of tomorrow and look to the national stats on public transportation. The usage is up everywhere. Yet, the car culture is not exactly on decline everywhere. There are a multitude of factors contributing to increased usage of public transportation, some dealing with rebounds into living in cities where it is easier to use public transport. In the past folks like you, meaning parents, would pack up and head to the suburbs with their kids to get a white picket fence, a little land and a good school district. Well, as the population has aged the bubble of people who led the flight to the suburbs is returning to the city (see increasing DC population) and coming here for the amenities including public transportation. Also one has to add in the impact of higher gas prices that push people to try other transportation options.

    Interestingly, if you break down the rise in public transportation numbers it isn’t the big cities like NYC and DC but smaller less traditional markets that lead the way. Of course if you only have 100 bus riders and then you get up to 200 it is 100% increase. Percentage increase can be a terribly misleading statistic.

    Not personally interested enough to read the methodology breakdown on the study, but I do wonder what sort of methodology that is geared at the national level works equally well at the micro local level. How are people contacted, is it by mail, is it door to door, is it by land line phones? This actually gets into a problem that is facing the polling community at large as some sets of the population rapidly leave the world of available to phone polls. I am one of the few people I even know who still has a land line (which is still superior quality to cells). These groups are dramatically under represented because they are harder to reach.

    All in all, while a fun little chat topic…the blip if it is even statistically relevant might not mean much, or it could mean what you are inferring that the masses are abandoning their cars for the superior means of public transportation. Which would make a lot of sense given all the gushing stories I read daily about the fantastic service provided by Metro (read sarcasm). For the record, one of us drives to work (she used to walk but her office moved from Georgetown to Largo in great part because of how difficult it was for people to drive and park at the office, they left four years ago and the building is still vacant) and I fall into the “other” group but drive to most everything else.

    Oh, and I will stop being snarky about bikes as the cure all for transportation as soon as I see more than 10% of bike riders obey traffic laws, oh make it 5% as it is still nothing I need to worry about happening. I might be willing to just blow my car up the first time I see one biker stop at a STOP sign. I have watched cyclists yell at drivers then blow through STOP signs ten seconds later…if we are supposed to share the road then we should follow the same rules. Maybe we could throw in draconian enforcement of traffic laws on bikers in the new Fort Georgetown Compound. I think you are dreaming just a bit on bike commuting ever being high enough to justified the infrastructure changes you favor.

    Public transportation, tele-working, biking to work, driving to work and walking to work all have a part to play in modern transportation. Trying to impose one personal world view about how people SHOULD get around is ultimately toying with the world of unintended consequences. You think traffic is bad now, just wait until Topher gets done cutting off the streets of Georgetown to impose his world view.

  6. I wouldn’t expect the numbers on bikes to see a significant impact for another couple of years, as the District’s overall investment in biking infrastructure was only beginning around 2009, and the major existing investments (15th Street and Pennsylvania Ave cycletracks, major increases in bike racks on public streets, launch of Capital Bikeshare) didn’t begin until late 2010.

    Personally, I started bike commuting in fall 2010, with the launch of CaBi, but didn’t make it my primary mode until Summer 2011. I have anecdotally seen a major increase in bicyclists across the city (even in Georgetown), in the past year, and that’s without even having an optimum density of Capital Bikeshare stations in the neighborhood. As gas prices continue to tick up (or at least not drop down below $3) and Metro continues to have service issues, I’m expecting the number of bicyclists to start growing much faster than RNM thinks they will.

    As for traffic enforcement, I’d be happy to see MPD enforce more traffic laws for bicyclists. (I’d also like to see them enforce the laws for proper turn signaling by both bicyclists and motor vehicles, which would considerably cut down on accidents and close calls). And I wouldn’t be opposed to some well-placed speed bumps on 35th, R, and a few other spots where some people like to see how fast they can drive between stop signs.

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