There was a time – May of 1973, to be precise – where Roanoke ranked higher as a commuter city than Washington DC, beat only by Richmond.
Roanoke, VA. – An analysis of the most recent American Community Survey data for 2010 shows that the number of commuters who have identified carpooling, bicycling, walking and telecommuting to work as their main commute mode has increased 33%. In total, 16% of commuters in the Roanoke MSA identify using a sustainable mode as their primary way to get to work.
“This data confirms what we’ve been seeing every day for the last several years,” says RIDE Solutions Program Director Jeremy Holmes. “Our database of regional carpoolers and Guaranteed Ride Home users has grown 1600% in five years. Families are continuing to look for ways to trim their household budgets, and cutting commuting expenses by joining carpools or bike commuting can be an easy way to save money almost instantly.”
The American Community Survey data shows an increase in all alternative modes which it measures, such as a 21% increase in the number of 2-person carpools and a 36% increase in public transit use. The most dramatic increase, though, comes from those identifying bicycling as their main commute mode – a staggering 152% increase.
“It’s important to recognize that the American Community Survey data actually understates the number of people using an alternative mode,” says Holmes. “It only asks respondents how they get to work most days, which leaves out people who may bike or carpool to work only one day a week. It also leaves out people who have replaced shopping or social trips with bicycle trips.” These trips, Holmes points out, make up ¾ of a household’s total trips.
Among the elements that could be driving this increase, Holmes cites the 2008 gas price peak of $4 a gallon, which resulted in a mode shift to carpools and transit use that has largely stuck even after gas prices dropped, and significant improvements in bicycling infrastructure. The latter includes the expansion of the greenway into Vic Thomas Park, bike lanes and wide shoulders on Shenandoah and Colonial Avenues, and bike routes marked by sharrows in downtown Roanoke. Encouragement programs such as Bike Month in the Roanoke and New River Valleys have encouraged new bicycle commuters and raised the awareness of all sustainable modes.
RIDE Solutions provides multimodal trip planning services – including carpool matching, bicycle commute routing, transit assistance, and telework consultation – for citizens and employers in the Roanoke and New River Valley regions and surrounding areas within southwestern Virginia. It is a program of the Roanoke Valley-Alleghany Regional Commission and the New River Valley Planning District Commission.