Atlanta is well-known for its challenging commute though most large metro areas suffer from traffic congestion. WNYC New’s John Keefe has built an interactive map (see below) to help us see our challenges.
While Keefe focuses his comments on the commuters of New York, he notes an interesting trend: the US Census Bureau tracks “megacommuters”. These are people who travel at least 90 miles and 50 miles to work.
The US Census Bureau estimates there are 600,000 megacommuters and at least 10.8 million Americans traveling a hour or more to work. Just to be clear, those number are one-way commutes.
Michael Graham Richard makes a great point in the last paragraph of his analysis posted on the TreeHugger website: Cars are great – we shouldn’t get rid of cars. We should be looking at better efficiency for our regular predictable commutes like our ten weekly round trips to and from work.
If you think of it that way, it makes sense to introduce more transit, especially if it’s bus rapid transit (BRT) or some other flexible solution that can be rerouted and rescheduled to follow cultural changes. Sitting on a very nice bus with WiFi to make the same commute would give you time to read, work or just relax. If you’ve ridden the train into Manhattan in the morning, you know hardly anyone talks because everyone is enjoying a bit of peace before a busy day.
We could use the map below like a heat map: the areas that are most dark (with the longest commutes) would probably benefit from more transit. That would greatly reduce our collective expenditures on gas and automobile maintenance, reduce our gasoline consumption, cut down on traffic, reduce automobile emissions and probably reduce our automobile insurance costs.
Yes, there are some trade offs to riding the bus to work. You may not be dropped off at the front of your building; you may have to walk a bit. Your schedule may not be as fluid as it is when you have a car. If these or any other issues arise, just drive your car. We think still you’ll take the transit option most of the time.
We also think the way we plan our cities will respond to our transit solutions. We’ll build better connections so we’ll be safer, more comfortable and enjoy more convenience.
Do you know what the downtown areas of Atlanta and Minneapolis have in common? Many of the building are connected with pedestrian bridges. We can walk for blocks without stepping outside. There are a huge number of amenities like retail, restaurants, hotels and conference centers along these indoor routes. Both cities are great examples of how our buildings can successfully connect to transit options.
Please have a look at the map and let us know what you think. Would you be willing to use public transit to reduce your typical driving?
You should see plus and minus signs in the upper left-hand corner of the map. You can use them to zoom and you can drag the map to look at other areas of the country. If you don’t see them, try refreshing this page so they’ll be properly displayed.
The Texas A&M Transportation Institute offers some great information about planning, transit, commutes and other related topics. Please visit its Urban Mobility Information website for more information.
Photo from antwerpenR used under a creative commons license.