Survey: More metro Atlanta residents working from home

A new survey shows three out of every four commuting trips in metro Atlanta are completed by driving alone. But hundreds of thousands of people are scrapping their commute at least once a week in favor of working from home.

A new survey shows three out of every four commuting trips in metro Atlanta are completed by driving alone. But hundreds of thousands of people are scrapping their commute at least once a week in favor of working from home.

Fed up with metro Atlanta traffic, hundreds of thousands of residents are scrapping their commute to work at home at least sometimes, a new survey shows.

Some 41% of metro commuters “telework” at least occasionally — nearly double the share who said they did in 2007 — the survey found. And most of those who don’t said they’d be willing to work from home if their employer had a formal telework program.

That’s one of the takeaways from the Atlanta Regional Commission’s new survey of commuters in 19 metro counties. The survey also found nearly everyone believes traffic congestion is a serious regional problem. And many respondents said their commute is getting worse.

The survey is used by the Georgia Commute Options program, which encourages people to break the habit of driving alone to work. Market Director Jill Goldberg said the growing popularity of working at home is a promising development.

“If you can get somebody off the road one day a week or more, that greatly impacts the way a commute works for everyone else who doesn’t have a chance to telework,” Goldberg said. “Even taking a few hundred cars off the road makes a dramatic difference.”

The results of the Georgia Commute Options 2019 Regional Commuter Survey will be unveiled Thursday at an ARC meeting. The survey of some 5,100 people was conducted in 2018 and 2019.

Anyone who drives in metro Atlanta can tell you traffic is awful. But the ARC's commuter survey — conducted every three to four years — puts some numbers to our collective misery. Among its findings:

  • Respondents reported an average travel time to work of 40 minutes. About 3 in 10 respondents traveled more than 45 minutes to work.
  • Driving alone accounts for three out of four commuting trips. A host of alternative options — transit, carpooling, vanpooling, biking, walking and on-demand services such as Uber and Lyft — accounted for just 13% of trips. The remaining 11% of trips were saved through telework.
  • Ninety-eight percent of commuters said traffic congestion is a serious issue. One-third of respondents said their commute was more difficult than a year ago.
  • Two in three commuters said the length or ease of their commute was a factor in decisions about where they worked or lived.

The growth of telework was one of the more striking findings. Based on the survey, the ARC estimates more than 650,000 people in the region work from home at least one day a week. That’s hundreds of thousands of vehicles that aren’t on the road.

Edwardo Hebbert commutes from Duluth to a state government job in downtown Atlanta four days a week. It can take an hour and a half one way if he leaves after 7:30 a.m.

But on Tuesdays Hebbert works at home.

“It’s a beautiful day,” he said. “I actually get more work done. I can log in earlier and I’m a little more productive because I don’t have to worry about, `Oh, it’s 5 o’clock. I have to go before traffic becomes a nightmare.’ ”

There are plenty more people who don’t telework but would like to. Based on the survey results, the ARC estimates there are nearly 300,000 metro residents who could work from home at least one day a week and are interested. Many just need a nudge — such as a formal telework program offered by their employer.

“People have a comfort level when they know what the rules are,” Goldberg said.

The survey also found challenges and opportunities when it comes to encouraging commuters to use public transportation.

Sixty percent of nontransit users who had access to public transportation and could use it said it would take too long. Others cited incompatible transit schedules, the distance from transit to home or work and — for 8% of nontransit users — cost.

Only 9% of respondents used a bus or train to get to work at least one day a week. But another 9% said they could use it at least once a week. And an additional 5% said they could use it occasionally.

Such “transit-potential respondents” represent nearly 350,000 commuters across the region, the survey found.

Goldberg said her organization seeks to help them make the transition by explaining how transit works and even mapping their routes for them.

“They haven’t tried it. They’re not sure of their route,” she said. “They’re afraid it might make (their commute) longer.”

Survey highlights

Highlights from the Atlanta Regional Commission’s 2019 Regional Commuter Survey:

  • 76% of commuting trips are completed by driving alone.
  • The average commute time to work is 40 minutes.
  • One in three commuters said their trip to work was more difficult than last year.
  • 41% of commuters teleworked at least occasionally.
  • 14% of commuters who drive alone said they would be able to use transit to get to work occasionally.

SOURCE: Atlanta Regional Commission