About one in 10 Connecticut residents don’t drive to work. They either walk or take trains, cabs, bicycles and maybe even unicycles. (OK, probably not.)
But TrendCT wanted to figure out what factors affected a worker’s mode of transportation, so we looked at data from the 2013 American Community Survey (five-year estimates), which asked people over 16 years old how they get to work.
And we found that the preferred mode of transportation depends on where someone lives — and what gender they are.
When we look at people who drive, there are five types of towns:
- Suburbs and driving cities: These are places where at least 90 percent of people drive to work. These towns largely surround cities, or are in rural parts of the state where there really aren’t other modes of transportation. This also includes some cites — like Danbury, New Britain and Waterbury — which are largely driver-friendly cities.
- Other cities: In New Haven, Hartford and New London, about one in three workers gets to work with something other than a car. These are some of the lowest rates outside of Fairfield County. In Windham, about one in five workers does not drive to work.
- College towns: New London may also count in this category, but we’re largely looking at Mansfield — home of the University of Connecticut — where only 61 percent of residents drove to work. College towns tend to have lower rates of drivers.
- Fairfield County: Being near the epicenter of the Greater New York Metropolitan area — and on the Metro North line — means that about one in four residents doesn’t drive to work. In Darien, only about 62 percent of workers drive; in Norwalk and Bridgeport, it’s about 83 percent. These high ratios of non-drivers extend up to Bridgeport.
- Northwest corner: The northwest corner of the state also has a high percentage of non-drivers but, unlike in Fairfield County, it’s not because many people are taking a train. More on this later.
But not every driver is equal, because a high percentage of drivers in some towns carpool to work. In Hartford, East Hartford, Danbury, Windham, New London, Bridgeport and several other towns, nearly 15 percent of workers commute to work with at least one other person in the car.
Females tend to drive more
There are some towns in which males drive to work more often. But the major gender gaps come in towns where females drive to work significantly more than males — largely in Fairfield County. In Darien, about 72 percent of females drive to work, while 55 percent of males do; in Greenwich, about 75 percent of females drive to work, while 65 percent of males do. But the biggest disparity is in Groton, home to military bases, where 90 percent of females drive to work, while it’s 71 percent for males.
So how do the others get to work?
Public transportation: Trains, and sometimes buses, are the primary mode of transportation for Fairfield County workers who don’t drive. In Darien, 26 percent of workers take public transportation to work — highest in the state. These rates stay high in Fairfield Country, west of Bridgeport.
The only other city that makes a real mark is Hartford, where about 18 percent of residents take public transportation. This survey was taken before CTfastrak opened, so it will be interesting to see what survey numbers look like in coming years.
Walking: There are only a few towns where a significant population walks to work. New Haven, home to Yale University, is the only major city with a big walking population — about 13 percent. Groton, with its military bases, and Mansfield, which houses UConn, also have large walking populations. Kent and Salisbury, in the northeast corner, round out the list.
Bikes: New Haven is the only real biking town in the state — and only 2.7 percent of workers bike to work there.
Other: The margins of error for the ‘other’ category are so large that it’s tough to make any real conclusions. But for your edification, the ‘other’ modes of transport include taxicab, motorcycle or other means not listed above. The survey did not ask specifically about unicycles.
And then there are people who work at home
An increasing number of people are working from home and, in some Connecticut towns, the rate has reached 15 percent.
A cluster of people working from home can be found four towns deep into Fairfield County, starting with New Canaan and Westport, with rates ranging from 12 percent to 15 percent. There is also a cluster in the northwest corner of the state, where between 9 and 16 percent of people work from home.
However, in many places, it is increasingly one gender or the other that doesn’t have a commute. In Fairfield County, stretching up the western border, women tend to work more at home. In the southeast corner, stretching up the eastern border, men tend to work at home more often.
What do we have to look forward to?
There are a few trends that may shift this data in coming years.
For one, as previously mentioned, there is CTfastrak. We have yet to seek out data on how this has affected commutes, but we’ll be interested to see what the 2015 ACS survey looks like. That won’t be for a few more years.
Secondly, a growing number of Americans are moving to the cities, which should mean Connecticut’s cities will grow and more people will take something other than a car to work. However, as we previously wrote, Connecticut cities aren’t projected to grow. That may be offset by an aging population, who tend to live outside the cities; in the next 10 years, projections say one in five Connecticut residents will be older than 65 and those resident are less likely to be in the workforce.
Lastly, the number of people who work at home — including people who work remotely or work for themselves — is growing rapidly. ACS data says, from 2005 to 2012, there was a 79 percent growth in people working from home. Three years ago, these people accounted for 2.6 percent of the work force. But, as The New York Times points out, “That definition has at times been expanded to include the self-employed … If all of those workers are included, the number of Americans who work remotely can reach as high as 30 percent.”