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Parking and Rideshare Coordinator Johnny Yee and Business Services Manager Evelyn Collado conducted this year's Commute Survey, which had a 98% response rate and the highest AVR ever.

My Other Car is a Bus: Survey Finds Fewer Employees Driving to Work
by  Kelly Markham
Issue Date: 09/2010

The annual Commute Survey shows that more employees than ever before are choosing transit, carpooling and biking over driving alone.

[Click on photo to read caption.]

Los Angeles in known for its car culture – the fierce dedication to the automobile as the preferred mode of transportation. Indeed, Census data show that among major cities, Los Angeles ranks near the bottom in public transit use, coming in at 21 out of 25 cities. Only about 11 percent of commuters in Los Angeles use transit. But among Caltrans employees, that figure is closer to 48 percent.

That impressive percentage is just one of the findings of Caltrans’ annual Commute Survey, conducted this past June by District 7 Business Services in the Office of Business Management. Even more significant, the survey showed that District 7 has achieved its highest-ever Average Vehicle Ridership, or AVR.

Simply put, AVR is the ratio of employees to vehicles arriving at the worksite. Higher AVRs mean that fewer people are driving cars, which translates into less congestion and lower vehicle emissions. District 7’s record-breaking AVR this year was 2.54. By comparison, our AVR was 1.97 last year.

Why measure AVR? The South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) requires all employers with 250 or more employees to conduct a yearly Commute Survey, like the one we filled out in June. The survey looks at employee commute habits and measures the organization’s AVR. The idea is that if the Commute Survey indicates that an employer has a low AVR – that is, it doesn’t meet the target AVR set by SCAQMD – steps can be taken to increase it. For Caltrans and other large Downtown employers, the target is 1.75. Our 2.54 AVR means that more employees than ever before are using transit, carpooling or vanpooling, walking and biking to work.

Not only did we exceed the target AVR, this year’s Commute Survey was a tremendous success for another reason as well: the 98% response rate. “We really increased our numbers this year by focusing on two strategies,” said Business Services Manager Evelyn Collado. “We had a pop-up message come on employees’ computers reminding them about the survey. We also used the transit voucher database.”

The transit voucher database includes approximately 700 employees who receive transit vouchers. Parking and Rideshare Coordinator Johnny Yee called hundreds of people – yes, hundreds – to get them to fill out the survey, which typically took less than a minute to complete.

“I felt like a telemarketer,” Yee said. “During the week of the survey, that’s almost all I did, but it paid off. We got a great response rate, and with all those transit users counted, it helped boost our AVR.”

District 7’s impressive AVR suggests that strategies in place to encourage alternatives to driving alone are working – things like transit subsidies, rideshare fairs and carpool notices. Ultimately, getting people out of their cars means offering them a better option.

“Often people have become eligible for parking and then decided they’d rather take transit, or they turn in their parking pass so they can take transit instead,” said Yee. “They find that it’s easier and more cost-effective to use public transportation than it is to drive. It’s that simple.”