Counting Georgetown: Getting to Work

Today, GM digs back into the recently released American Community Survey results issued by the Census Bureau. Specifically, GM is going to explore one of his favorite topics: transportation.

Last year, GM reported that the numbers showed a dramatic reduction of Georgetowners driving to work and a smaller, but still significant, jump in transit use. He is somewhat sorry to say that some of those trends reversed themselves this year.

Here are the year to year comparisons:



Drove Total



     Drove Alone















At Home



The driving totals went almost back to where they were in 2009 and the transit cohort shaved off a few percentages. “Other” is up pretty significantly, which probably reflects the growing numbers of bike commuters.

Before you jump to a conclusion that something happened in 2011 to change people’s behaviors, remember that each of these results reflects a running five year average. So when the 2011 numbers say 23.05% of Georgetowners took transit, it’s really saying that from 2007 to 2011, an average of 23.05% of Georgetowners took transit. So while shifting up a year would affect that somewhat, it’s not a “snapshot”.

The long term trends, though, are still towards transit, walking and “other” (which, on top of biking, also includes motorcycling, Segwaying, and whatever else doesn’t involve a car or public transit.)

Here are the results for 2009, 2010, and 2011 charted with a trendline forecasting out five years:

Transportation Trends


Again, this is very rudimentary, and the margin for error on all these numbers is really high. So these trendlines might reflect less on actual changes in behavior and more on the highly-noisy numbers settling towards the true numbers. And if that’s right, then it seems fair to state that the majority of Georgetowners don’t drive to work, either alone or in a carpool.

Even setting aside those that work at home (those that commute by sock?) the statement still stands. Under that analysis, 59% of Georgetowners take transit, walk or bike to work. (Those annoyed by GM’s transit proselytizing will probably point out that driving alone is still the plurality choice, which is also true. For now.)

All in all, the numbers are a mixed bag for transit advocates like GM. Last year’s numbers were probably not terribly accurate. But then again, maybe this year’s numbers are the aberration? We’ll have a better sense next year (or, then again, maybe not).



Filed under Demographics

3 responses to “Counting Georgetown: Getting to Work

  1. RNM

    So, when the numbers can be used to support your argument…it is rock solid proof. However when the numbers go against your argument they are rudimentary with a high margin of error. Heads I win, tails you lose.

    Cars are part of a broadly planned transportation system. The stable use of cars points toward a need not to continue a war against them…or to make it personal, against your neighbors.

  2. Anon

    Thank you, RNM – you said far more cohesively and diplomatically than I am able in retaliation against this unfortunate – albeit apparently well-meaning – one-man band “war against cars” – which last time I checked are and have long been the major means of transport for most people in most cities in the US. They are not going to become obsolete. I’m tired of having my life-long lifestyle and necessity for driving where I and my family need to go criticized and denigrated, much less by and for the benefit of fans of bicycles who increasingly now make any driving experience a harrowing and dangerous experience an everyday occurence. (Like an earlier contributor this week, I’ve yet to see ONE SINGLE RIDER EVER STOP AT A STOP SIGN or not try to dodge or race past me in some manner or to somehow interrupt or dangerously affect my driving. And, yes, I slow down to a near-crawl whenever anywhere near a biker. They – and the the mere thought of an accident of some sort – TERRIFY me. Totally unpredicatable!! ) En masse bikers do not belong on Washington’s already overcrowded streets – not for nothing are we the number one driving nightmare city in the US. One can be part of a solution or part of a problem – adding more bikes, to say nothing of incomprehensible and dangerous bike lanes on our most congested streets (to the detriment of BOTH pedestrians and drivers, to say nothing of the bikers themselves) is only exacerbating an already huge problem. After a few inevitable accidents producing tragic deaths, maimings, and ruined lives for all involved parties, perhaps we will ALL come to our senses.

    Comment submitted by one who has been both flattened by a speeding biker while walking and hit while driving a car…neither biker ever looked back, but I’ve been shaken ever since.

  3. jacquer

    “Like an earlier contributor this week, I’ve yet to see ONE SINGLE RIDER EVER STOP AT A STOP SIGN or not try to dodge or race past me in some manner or to somehow interrupt or dangerously affect my driving.”

    You should follow my morning bike commute from Georgetown to downtown. it might look different than what you’re used to. Not only do I stop at all stop signs, but like most bicyclists I’ve seen (some visible exceptions apply, of course), I’m more likely to defer to drivers at any “judgment call” 4-way stops than they are to me… as I’m more likely to get flattened by riding aggressively.

    On a related note, while overall bike riding and bike lane introduction in the city increased in DC in 2012, total traffic fatalities fell to the lowest point (19) in the almost 100 years of reporting. No cyclist died, and the number of pedestrians killed (8) was also a record low since tracking began in 1931.
    I’m not going to argue that more cycling led to fewer fatalities in DC (although there is research from other places that show similar findings), but the evidence is quite opposite of your prediction of inevitable death-producing accidents.

    I suppose this makes me part of a two-man band with Topher, but if so, I volunteer to be the bass player.

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