In addition to population counts and trends, the U.S. Census Bureau compiles workers’ means of transportation to work. RIDE Solutions staff wanted to compare the way residents of the West Piedmont Planning District – comprising the counties of Franklin, Henry, Patrick, and Pittsylvania and the cities of Danville and Martinsville – traveled to work in 2010 and 2017. To accomplish this, staff analyzed data from both the 2006 – 2010 and 2013 – 2017 U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS) five-year estimate data.
The data, illustrated within the following pie charts, shows that most workers drove alone, and the data pertaining to this mode of travel over the two time periods show that the share of workers who drove alone increased slightly from 81.4% to 83.1%. The second most common means by which people traveled to work over the two time periods was carpooling, which accounted for 12.0% of commuters in 2010 and 9.7% in 2017. The share of workers using public transit remained almost the same, though declined slightly over the two time frames – from 0.8% to 0.7%. The percentage of employees who walked also exhibited a decline over the same period, but the percentage of those who utilized other means of travel to work (taxi, motorcycle, bicycle, or other) exhibited a slight increase. Additionally, the percentage of workers who worked at home increased from 2.8% to 3.7%.
Observing the trend of more commuters driving alone to work in 2017 compared to 2010, and fewer of them using transit, walking, and carpooling in 2017 leads us to draw a potential conclusion for this travel preference. The 2010 ACS comprises a five-year average inclusive of the years 2006 – 2010, and the Great Recession was in full swing during a good portion of this time frame. Therefore, it is likely that, due to economic conditions, more people carpooled, used transit, and walked to save money. In later years, however, the economy was improving and more people possessed the resources to drive alone. It is likely that as RIDE Solutions becomes more popular in our region in coming years, the percentage of commuters carpooling (and vanpooling) will increase, as residents who travel to work experience the value that carpooling has to offer.