Monday, January 22, 2007

Alternative Transportation Perceptions

In 1995, shortly after I went to work at the downtown-Boise headquarters of a large corporation, I helped plan and conduct an Alternative Transportation Survey. Of the approximately 700 employees who worked in the building, 393 responded. (I consider that to be an unusually successful survey.)

Of the 393, 276 indicated they drive to work alone 100% of the time. Another 50 said they drive to work alone 90% or more of the time. (27 respondents said they carpool to work at least 90% of the time.)

Why do people choose to drive alone?
(Respondents were free to cite multiple reasons.)
273 said for "convenience" (running errands, appointments, etc.)
157 - independence and autonomy
129 - family responsibilities
92 - solitude / time alone to de-stress
66 - bus routes not convenient
51 - bus schedule not convenient
32 - don't know anyone to carpool or vanpool with
8 - bikes can get stolen
6 - riding the bus is difficult and/or confusing
6 - bikes are unsafe

What INCENTIVES might make you choose an alternative?
80 said they'd be attracted to bus routes closer to their homes.
79 - casual dress code
60 - more frequent bus service
57 - free bus passes
49 - company-sponsored transportation if an emergency arises
49 - better shower/cleanup/storage facilities at work
41 - more flexible work schedule
40 - reduced-fare bus passes
30 - assistance finding someone to vanpool or carpool with

I'm guessing that for most people, most transportation is a matter of habit. We're creatures of habit… or in other words, we're "in a rut."

I must comment on a couple of misperceptions that are evident in the poll results.

BIKES ARE UNSAFE – Well, sure they are, if you're riding in an unsafe fashion. Cars are unsafe, too, if you're blowing through red lights, driving down the street against traffic, driving at night without the lights on, darting back and forth in squirrel-like fashion, etc. I rarely feel "unsafe" on my bicycle. (But then, I'm riding totally predictably, highly visibly, assertively, defensively, and legally.)

I DRIVE FOR INDEPENDENCE AND AUTONOMY – I declare the opposite is closer to true. When you choose a car as your dedicated mode of transportation, you're totally dependent on the eeevil greeedy big oil companies, to deliver fuel, at a price of their choosing. To a lesser degree, you're dependent on the people who provide well-maintained roads and infrastructure, parking, etc. And it's hard to be "autonomous" sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic at 7:45am or 5:30pm on I-84, or Chinden, or Franklin Road.

TIME ALONE TO DE-STRESS – (Are you serious?!!?) Every now and then, I'll borrow the wife's minivan to run an errand or two that require hauling stuff. And almost without fail, I once again realize how BLESSED my life is, to not deal with the stress of traffic on a regular basis. I really can't stand, anymore, to be queued up in a long line of cars, engine idling, watching the traffic signal up ahead… green light and a few people creep through… red light and the line moves up a couple hundred feet and then waits... waits... waits … repeat the cycle… repeat the cycle, until finally it's my turn to go through and drive up the road to the next traffic signal. DE-STRESS? I can TOTALLY understand the road-rage phenomenon. Sure, an empty road and a sweet car (like in the car TV commercials) can provide an emotionally satisfying experience. But - traffic and red lights? – I'd NEVER trade even a bike-ride-in-the-rain for THAT, every day!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"Independence and autonomy" is hilarious to me. There's a car in my garage that has been dead since August 2006. I have since spent more on bicycling gear than it would have cost to repair the car. "My" car is now "the" car, because it is no longer connected to my life. Because of my conversion to a car-free life, the sense of freedom I enjoy daily is virtually indescribable. The very thought of dealing with a car again is the antithesis of "independence and autonomy" to me.