Some new-ish Census figures on commuting habits in 2008 suggest that Washington may be the Northwest’s leader in alternatives to driving. Or possibly Alaska, depending on how you count.
Driving alone is still the dominant mode of commuting, but all five Northwest states have less solo driving than the national average.
When it comes to carpooling, the region’s leader is Idaho. But again, all five Northwest states have more carpooling than the national average.
If Idaho’s leadership in carpooling is surprising, perhaps it shouldn’t be. Very often, states with driving-centric transportation systems tend to perform well on carpooling, which can be the most practical way for commuters to avoid solo driving.
But in public transportation, Washington is the only Northwest state that does better than the national average.
Washington’s ranking here is probably due in large part to the fact that the state is more populous and urbanized than other US Northwest jurisdictions. Obviously, transit ridership tends to be higher in places where there are robust transit systems, which in turn tend to be located in urban areas.
I’ve got no big-picture analysis here, I just thought it was interesting. And somebody should explain Alaska to me.
Alaska is a puzzle. It places unexpectedly atop the carpooling league and at the bottom of the solo-commuting rank. Yet its transit figure is low. And, of course, its population is so small that the error bars are wide.Is Alaska more rural than the others? Or is it more urban? Alaska is a demographic outlier in many ways: the age spread and gender split are both unusual. Do those factors contribute to the explanation?
Good questions. Here’s a guess about Alaska, using my Oregonian binoculars:(Alaskans, please feel free to chime in!)Maybe Alaska’s fishing and oil industries encourage the higher male population. And, since the guys (and some gals, too) are heading towards the same or similar worksites, then carpooling just makes more sense than soloing? Plus, you can split the cost of the gas.And as Eric pointed out (coincidentally about Idaho), the more popular that carpooling is, the less popular that transit is. Which could probably explain Alaska, too.Now, here’s a puzzle about IDAHO:If Idaho has the highest percentage of SOLO drivers in the region, then how can it also have the highest percentage of CARPOOLERS?
Eric de Place
Michelle,Maybe I didn’t write so clearly in the post, but here’s what I meant to say: states with high rates of solo driving are often the same states with high rates of carpooling. (Click on the links in the post to see what I mean.) In other words, highway-centric states have a lot of solo driving AND a lot of carpooling—because they have a lot of driving period! Idaho fits that description as does Texas, Utah, and a bunch of others. [Tangent: In fact, among the top 20 carpooling states, Washington (along with California) is something of an oddity because it’s a relatively urban and transit-friendly state; in other words, it’s not a super highway-centric state where you would expect lots of carpooling.]What perplexes me about Alaska is the SIZE of its advantage over the other states when it comes to solo driving. It does far better than OR & WA, which are essentially tied at a fairly respectable level. The size of Alaska’s advantage isn’t explained by transit ridership (it doesn’t have much) and can’t fully be explained by carpooling (where it’s only a little better than other states). So what’s going on? Home offices? Telecommuting? Walking? Biking? Snowshoeing? Screwy data?
According to this, 7.5 percent of Alaskans walked to work in 2000—higher than any other state, even New York (6.2 percent).
Thanks, guys!Eric:Yeah, I noticed that about Texas, too. I always try to check out the links first before commenting, so’s not to stick my elbow in my mouth. Doesn’t always mean I understand everything, though! :-)Getting back to Idaho, and other car-centric states: If the car is KING, then it sure seems like transit advocates should seize this golden opportunity to make transit the KNIGHT IN SHINING ARMOR. Especially for all those carpoolers![A small aside: Any particular reason you left out California as the #6 state on your regional list?]
Eric de Place
Oh, mostly ’cause California is so huge. The portion of California that we at Sightline consider the NW is *tiny* compared to the rest of the state. By contrast, the portions of AK and MT that we consider part of the region are at least respectable chunks of those states’ populations. But, yeah, it’s often useful to make comparison to our giant West Coast neighbor.
…Well, yes, it probably is BEST to keep Northern California listed as a HYPOTHETICAL “sixth state,” lest they get any big ideas! 😉
What is the sixth NW state?1- Alaska2- Idaho3- Montana4- Oregon5- Washington6- ??The article keeps mentioning “all six Northwest states” but keeps listing just five.
Eric de Place
Five. I can count—really. (It’s fixed now in the post above. Thanks Michelle and Lori.)Sightline often includes comparisons to British Columbia—the sixth Northwest jurisdiction—but US Census data obviously isn’t available for places north of the border.