Commuting to Work in Portland
Despite a decade of rising traffic congestion, the average commute in Portland takes about as long as in San Francisco or Los Angeles 20 years ago.
2010 U.S.A. census figures show Portland-area residents typically commute 24 minutes to work −the same as it was in the 2010 census and just below the national mean travel time of 25 minutes. It is still a shorter journey than in nine of the nation's 50 top metropolitan areas, including Seattle, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.
Statewide, nearly 72 percent of Oregonians reported driving to work alone, while 11 percent carpooled and 4.5 percent took public transportation.
2010 Census Data on Commuting in the Portland Metro Area
More than 71 percent of the region's workers still drive alone, while bicycling and public-transit appear to be stuck in neutral, according to U.S. Census data released in November 2013.
Nearly 60 percent of commuters in the city of Portland still drive alone. But more than 12 percent take transit. And the share of those who walk and bike to work — about six percent in both categories — far exceeds that in the suburbs. Just one percent of residents in Washington County go by bike, slightly ahead of the 0.3 percent in Clackamas and Clark counties.
Nearly 81 percent of Portland area workers choose to hop in automobiles daily, often braving a slow, bumper-to-bumper slog on rainy freeways. And little more than 71 percent drive alone, which is just a slight drop from the all-time peak of 72 percent in 2005.
The mean travel time to work is now 25 minutes, a minute more than 2005.
Still, when compared with the rest of the nation, Portland area commuters appear to be a little more willing to leave their cars at home. But just a little. Last year, for example, 76.3 percent of U.S. commuters drove alone, while only 0.6 percent rode bicycles to work, according to the survey. In Alabama, the share of lonesome drivers has reached 85 percent, compared to 72 percent in Oregon.
In the Portland area, more than six percent of commuters take TriMet or C-Tran. Nationally, however, less than five percent ride public transportation, the report shows.
About 6.4 percent of the region's workers 16 years and over work at home, according to the Census Bureau's American Community Survey. That's the largest number since the 1960s, when most people "working at home" were laboring on a family farm.
The Census Bureau's commuting report on the Portland metro area, including Multnomah, Washington, Clackamas and Clark County, also shows:
How People Get to Work
The 2012 U.S. Census Bureau American Community Survey data below shows how metro area residents, city of Portland residents, and U.S. residents get to work.
Source: "Census: Despite bicycling rep, vast majority of Portland area commuters drive alone (or work at home)," November 23, 2013, by Joseph Rose, The Oregonian.
Texas Transportation Institute Traffic Report
Portland, the nation’s 29rd largest urban area, ranked 6th on the list of the U.S. cities with the worst traffic congestion, according to study by the Texas Transportation Institute that was released in early 2013. The report analyzed congestion patterns in 498 of the nation's urban areas.
A tight, circular freeway system within the growth boundaries tends to create bunched-up morning and evening commutes that can seize up after just a couple of simultaneous fender benders, according to the Texas A&M Transportation Institute's new Urban Mobility Report. Other findings:
After traffic flow outside peak hours (6 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.) is factored into the calculations, Portland ranks 17th on the list of America's most-congested cities. That's the same position it held last year. In 2010, the region was ranked 24th.
For the fourth year in a row, Washington, D.C., had the dubious honor of being named the nation's most-congested city by the report, followed by Los Angeles, San Francisco-Oakland, New York-Newark and Boston.
Light Rail Open to Debate
Activists, regional planners and legislators have sparred for a decade about how to address the most visible effect of population growth: traffic congestion. And each camp can find ammunition in the Census.
It shows west side light rail between downtown Portland and Hillsboro, which opened four years ago, helped boost the number of rail commuters from about 2,600 in 1990 to 9,100 in April 2000, before the downtown streetcar and airport MAX opened. In neighborhoods lining the tracks, MAX drew 5 percent to 10 percent of commuters.
Critics of the nearly $1 billion west side line say that's a trickle compared to the 800,000 people who drove alone - or the 54,000 who, according to the census, rode the bus. It's also a small portion of all rides on MAX, which average 68,000 per weekday.
"Rail is irrelevant to most people in the region," said John Charles, environmental policy director at the free-market-oriented Cascade Policy Institute in Portland.
But Metro officials say the census greatly undercounts MAX commuters because it asks workers how they "usually" get to work. That leaves out occasional riders. Metro surveys and computer models put one-way commuter trips at 44,000 a day, which would suggest individual commuters number 22,000.
Biking to Work
The Rose City has been judged the most bicycle-friendly place in North America, according to Bicycling magazine in one award and the League of American Bicyclists in another. Portland wins accolades for its extensive bikeways (309 miles of bikeways) and willingness to include cyclists in its master planning. Corvallis, Ashland and Beaverton have been honored as well.
American Automobile Association chapter Oregon/Idaho is the first AAA club in the U.S. to include bicycle service as part of its regular roadside membership benefits package for AAA Plus, Plus RV and Premier members. There is no additional charge for roadside service which applies to all bicycles and tandems, including rental bicycles and bicycle trailers.
November 2010 The average daily trips across Portland's four busiest cycling bridges have increased after a one-year decline. There are now roughly 17,500 bicyclists per day crossing the Willamette River via four bike-friendly bridges the − Hawthorne, Steel, Burnside and Broadway −according to the study.
Bike traffic on the four bridges increased 12 percent. Cyclists represented about 14 percent of all vehicles crossing those bridges, a one percent increase compared to 2009. On the Hawthorne, 20 percent of all vehicles crossing were bikes, a one percent decrease compared to 2009. On the Broadway the number of bikers was 16 percent; on the Steel, 17 percent; and on the Burnside, 5 percent.
At 109 other locations, bike traffic jumped 7 percent. The total number of bicycle trips in the city grew 8 percent in 2010 compared to 2009, according to the count. Southwest Portland and East Portland lead the growth in bicycle trips with 19 percent and 9.5 percent increases respectively.
Portland Ranks First in Nation for Biking to Work
A larger share of Portlanders commute by bicycle than in any other large city in America, eight times the national average, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Census Bureau's annual American Community Survey data showed 6.4 percent told the survey that they bicycled to work in 2008. This makes Portland No. 1 in bicycle commuting among the 30 largest cities in the country. The percentage of walkers and transit users also rose.
Across the Portland metro area, 21,921 people rode bicycles to work. Statewide, 37,582 people pedaled to work.
According to the US Census 2000, the region's average journey to work has stretched to 24 minutes in 2000 - less than you might expect with 26 percent population growth since 1990.
Metro Counties Average Commute Time in Minutes
Clackamas - 26.2