Saturday, October 01, 2011

Commuting in the US---and San Francisco

Photo from Getty Images

A big traffic weekend---Critical Mass, the annual free concert in the park (too much of a good thing?), and the Oracle convention---was the subject of Will Reisman's story in yesterday's Examiner. But Reisman found a silver lining for SF:

But while motorists are stuck in traffic this weekend, they can ponder this bit of good news: Congestion in San Francisco has actually improved recently. The metro area is the seventh most congested region in the country — which is one spot better than the prior year’s ranking, according to the latest report from the Texas Transportation Institute.

But a report more useful in putting commuting traffic in a national context was published this month by the Census Bureau, Commuting in the United States: 2009.

This report will be disappointing to the anti-car movement:

...among workers 16 years and over, 86.1 percent commuted in a car, truck, or van in 2009, and 76.1 percent drove to work alone. About 5 percent of workers commuted by public transportation, and about 3 percent walked to work. All other transportation modes were used by less than 1 percent of workers who did not work at home (page 3).

The report tells us that this is not a new or surprising trend:

The private automobile’s dominance among travel modes used for the commute represents a longstanding pattern. The 1960 Census was the first to include questions specifically related to commuting. Figure 2 shows that the number of workers who commuted by private automobile increased continuously between 1960 and 2009, from about 41 million to about 120 million.

Why do people increasingly use motor vehicles to get to work? Because it's much faster: "For all workers combined, public transportation commuters averaged over 20 minutes longer getting to work than those who drove alone" (page 14).

But what about bikes and commuting? A list of the "Top Ten Metro Areas for Commutes to Work by Bicycle: 2009" has only relatively small college cities, with Corvallis, Oregon---population 49,000---leading the list with 9.3%. Corvallis is home to Oregon State University and is also completely flat.

An earlier American Community Survey found that in San Francisco itself 3% of commuters use bicycles, but apparently the SF metropolitan area as a whole doesn't follow our example.

San Francisco as a city does much better than the rest of the country with 31.8% using public transportation, while only 38.9% "Drive Alone," According to the MTA's Transportation Fact Sheet of November, 2010.

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At 9:32 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I bike to Caltrain and take the train to work, that study would put me down as someone who commutes via public transit since a majority of my travel is by train.

Your study is worthless.

At 12:35 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Counting people like you as bike commuters wouldn't make much difference in the percentages. Besides, the most important figures in the study are those showing that more than 86% of US commuters use motor vehicles, with more than 76% driving alone. Those percentages have only gone up since 1960, in spite of the great bike revolution.

At 2:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Congestion in San Francisco has actually improved recently.

Hmm... despite all those new bike lanes that you told us would make congestion worse...

At 4:06 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

You offer no evidence for your statements, though I've long thought that driving in SF isn't bad at all, except for rush hour jams around the Bay Bridge---which is why the Treasure Island project is nuts---the entrance to the freeway at 13th and South Van Ness---in part due to the ban on the right-turn onto the freeway at Market and Octavia---and Octavia Blvd. itself.

Curt Sanburn wrote about how easy it is to drive in SF more than five years ago in the SF Weekly. Of course you bike nuts want to change that, right?

In fact the city hasn't implemented the Bicycle Plan on important streets like Second Street, Fifth Street, Cesar Chavez, and Masonic. The damage it has done with the Plan so far is mostly to small businesses by taking away street parking to make bike lanes: on 17th Street---mostly prevented by local merchants---on Ocean Avenue, and on upper Market Street.

And of course you want to screw up traffic---or maybe just eliminate as many parking spaces as possible---on the Panhandle to make bike lanes, even though nearby Page Street and Hayes Street are easily availble to cyclists to access the Wiggle. But the main point of the Fell/Oak plan is to fuck with city drivers, right?

Even City Hall seems to understand that there are limits to how far they'll be able to punish the city's drivers and Muni passengers just to appease the Bicycle Coalition.

At 8:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Those percentages have only gone up since 1960, in spite of the great bike revolution."

Build it and they will come.

At 8:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

OK, let me try it this way...

According to a post by a "local blogger" "Congestion in San Francisco has actually improved recently."

This despite claims from said blogger that that the bicycle plan will screw up city traffic

That blog post claims that the bike plan will screw up City traffic. Yet the retort in the comments refers to Masonic and 2nd, which are not in the bike plan. And there is no evidence presented that Masonic or 2nd or 5th are more "important" than Townsend, Market, Alemany, Woodside, Laguna Honda, 17th, Potrero, Clipper , Kirkham, etc....

At 8:24 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

More poor reading skills demonstrated by a bike guy. The "Congestion has actually improved lately" sentence was written by Will Reisman of the Examiner, not me, and it was based on that Texas Transportation Institute study. He was being ironic, since the SF region only moved one place in the rankings.

You then cite another post that consisted entirely of a republication of an article in the Examiner by Mike Aldax that confirmed the impact the Bicycle Plan was going to have on city streets and Muni if/when it's fully implemented.

At 9:02 AM, Anonymous Bob Assderson said...

Rob, you are taking side-stepping to a whole different level. Simply amazing!

At 11:10 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Pretty obvious why you're anonymous.

At 5:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The topic here is congestion, not anonymity.


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