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February 1, 2010

For more information, Contact:

Bryan Davis
Chittenden County Metropolitan Planning Organization

Phone: 802.338.2485 (cell)
FAX: 802.660.4079

Transportation Trends Changing in Chittenden County

Census data reveals increases in walking, biking, transit and decrease in driving alone !

Winooski, VT - If it seems like more people are walking, biking, and taking the bus, that's because they are. According to recent data from the US Census Bureau, Chittenden County residents have begun to buck the longtime national trend of more people driving alone to work.

Local transportation planners compared journey-to-work data from the 2000 Census with the 2006-2008 American Community Survey (ACS) for people working in Chittenden County. While the total number of people working in Chittenden County increased during that timeframe, researchers found that the share of Single Occupant Vehicles (SOV)-those commuters who drive alone-dropped nearly 4%. The data also indicate that work trips on public transportation increased 70%, walking was up 30%, and the percentage of people biking (along with riding motorcycles and taking taxicabs) nearly doubled.

"This is inspiring news given the attention and funding spent on transportation the last few years," said Michele Boomhower, Executive Director of the Chittenden County Metropolitan Planning Organization. "Local communities have been working hard to create an efficient and safe transportation network for all users, and the numbers are showing that people are taking advantage of other options than driving alone." Fewer people traveling alone helps to reduce congestion and damage to roads and bridges, while improving air quality and transportation system efficiency.

At the national level, 76% of people drive alone to work while in Chittenden County 74% of commuters travel alone. Some 7% of Chittenden County workers choose to walk, compared to 3% of US workers, while US transit ridership is at 5% compared to 2% in Chittenden County. Figures for the US and Chittenden County are the same for carpooling (11%), biking (which is combined with riding motorcycles and taking taxicabs, at 2%), and working at home (4%).

"While the local trend is a complex phenomenon and there are a lot of factors driving change, this kind of thing doesn't happen by accident," said Chapin Spencer, Executive Director of Local Motion. "The combined efforts of many organizations have created the conditions where people can choose something other than driving solo." Additional factors which may also be contributing to the positive mode shifts include increasing fuel prices and the recession

There are numerous local organizations working throughout Chittenden County to provide commuters with options and incentives, and their efforts appear to be influencing the number of people choosing other modes. The organizations working together include:
  • Local Motion - a greater Burlington non-profit organization promoting bicycling and walking and the facilities that make such travel safe, easy and fun
  • Chittenden County Transportation Authority (CCTA) - promotes and operates safe, convenient, accessible, innovative and sustainable public transportation services in the Chittenden County region that reduce congestion and pollution, encourage transit oriented development and enhance the quality of life for all.
  • Campus Area Transportation Management Association (CATMA) - develops and manages transportation, parking and infrastructure for the American Red Cross, Champlain College, Fletcher Allen Health Care and the University of Vermont, along with providing a suite of Transportation Demand Management (TDM) programs and services for employees and students.
  • UVM's Transportation Research Center - a hub for research, education and outreach related to sustainable transportation and serves as the host of the National University Transportation Center and Vermont Clean Cities Coalition.
  • CarShare Vermont - provides an affordable, convenient, and reliable alternative to private car ownership that enhances the environmental, economic, and social wellbeing of our region and planet.
  • Chittenden County Metropolitan Planning Organization (CCMPO) - a federally-funded but locally controlled organization serving Chittenden County's 18 municipalities. It evaluates and approves proposed transportation improvement projects, performs long-range transportation planning for the region, and provides a forum for interagency cooperation and public input into funding decisions.
  • Vermont Agency of Transportation - the state agency working to provide for the movement of people and commerce in a safe, reliable, cost-effective and environmentally responsible manner.
  • AARP Vermont - their "Transporting the Public" initiative is focused on how to effectively utilize and integrate the full range of financial and physical transportation assets in Vermont to increase mobility, reduce cost, protect the environment, and foster economic development.
  • Vermont Energy Investment Corp. (VEIC) - strives to reduce the economic, social, and environmental costs of energy use, now including the transportation sector. VEIC is host this year to the Way to Go! Commuter Challenge, taking it statewide as interest in the program has grown.
"We always knew there was significant demand for public transit and carpooling in Vermont, and in response the state since 2004 has nearly doubled its public transportation budget and created an on-line carpooling tool called Go Vermont where carpoolers can easily find one another," said David Dill, Vermont's Transportation Secretary. "We now spend more than $24 million annually on these efforts and some of this money helps local public transit providers both create new bus routes and improve or expand existing services. We are delighted to see that all these efforts are paying off."

The trends shown in the census data are visible on the ground in many ways:
  • Membership and programming in the 10-year-old walking and biking advocacy group Local Motion has jumped in recent years.
  • Since 1997 all CCTA buses have been equipped with bike racks, which are often full, and overall ridership continues to increase.
  • CATMA's annual Employee and Student Transportation Surveys continually demonstrate the success of increased alternative modes, commuter satisfaction, and reduced SOV on the Hill, which positively impacts the county SOV mode share.
  • CCMPO, the county's transportation planning organization, continues to get requests from municipalities interested in improving and expanding their walking and biking facilities.
  • UVM's Transportation Research Center is currently working on research projects about seasonal changes to commuting, economic benefits, and more.
  • CarShare Vermont, the state's first non-profit car-sharing organization, recently celebrated their one-year anniversary with more than 400 members.
  • Way to Go! Commuter Challenge expanded to become a week-long event in Chittenden County in 2004, and since then individual participation has grown by more than 200%.
Together these organizations are able to encourage, incentivize and provide viable options to driving alone for commuters.

More Work to be Done:
Despite the fact that more people are choosing to walk, bike, and take the bus over driving alone, there are still opportunities to increase those numbers. Programs such as the annual statewide Way to Go! Commuter Challenge ( provide incentives and friendly competition to encourage trying new ways of getting to work. These types of programs could entice drive-alone workers with short commutes (less than 19 minutes)-some 54% of commuters, according to the 2000 Census-to explore other modes of travel.

"Not all Vermonters live in places where they can walk, bike or use public transportation to get to their destinations," notes Lisa Aultman-Hall, Director of UVM's Transportation Research Center. "But even when using a motorized vehicle you can rideshare or become an eco-driver - someone who avoids idling, slows down, performs regular vehicle maintenance and accelerates more slowly." Research, including work at the University of Vermont, indicates that vehicle speed and acceleration is a major factor in fuel efficiency and tailpipe emissions.

The barriers often cited by commuters for driving alone-convenience, time, safety/lack of facilities, emergencies, and needing a vehicle for work-are being addressed by partnerships among local transportation entities. These solutions include:
  • Guaranteed/Emergency Ride Home" programs - for alternative commuters, this program ensures that you have a ride home if you need it or in case of an emergency.
  • Flexible work schedules - changing your work hours may help connections with transit schedules and help bicyclists avoid rush hour congestion.
  • Improved walking and biking facilities and services - more people can choose to walk or bike when sidewalks, paths, and lanes connect to destinations that feature amenities such as racks and even showers.
  • Improved connections to transit - with better walking, biking and carpooling access to transit, you may be able to drive less often.
  • Using car-sharing for work-related travel - if you drive to work because you need a vehicle for daytime meetings, car-sharing provides access to a vehicle and allows you to get to work without having to drive.
About the Data:
The American Community Survey (ACS) provides rolling 3-year samples of work trip travel modes in the United States. Comparing the 2006-2008 ACS with the 2000 Census provides insight into eight years of potential change in Chittenden County commuters' transportation choices. The differences between the 2000 Census and the 2006-2008 ACS journey to work are significant at a 90% confidence level for moderate SOV reductions and increases in transit, walking, and bicycling. Future annual releases of ACS data will allow planners to continue tracking these trends. While it will take several more years' worth of data to fully understand the long-term trends, this could be a glimpse into the future as the national conversation continues to focus on energy supplies, climate change, public health, air pollution, and traffic congestion.

Partner Institution Information:
Data Source Information:
SOV mode share for people working in Chittenden County dropped 2.8 percentage points between 2000 and the 2006-2008 ACS (76.3% of work trips in 2000 to 73.6% of work trips in the current ACS) - a percent decrease of about 4 percent.

Public Transportation mode share increased by 0.7 percentage points (1.1% of work trips in 2000 to 1.8% of work trips in the ACS) - a percent increase of about 70%.

Walking mode share increased by 1.7 percentage points (5.6% of work trips in 2000 to 7.3% of work trips in the ACS) - a percent increase of about 30%.

Bicycling mode share is included with taxis and motorcycles; the overall mode share for this group increased by 1 percentage point (1% in 2000 to 2% in current ACS) - a 96% increase.

The data does not provide information on non-work trips-which are the majority of daily trips around our region-but non-work trips are likely to follow similar trends.

Call or email Bryan Davis with questions at 802.338.2485 (cell),