The rainbow flag, or the design of the latest apartment building, or who should or shouldn’t be running for West Hollywood City Council. That’s what dominates the conversation (at least on WEHOville) some days. But the issue that never goes away in our auto-obsessed city is the ubiquity of (other people’s) cars and the pain they cause us.
The solution to our traffic woes, if there is one, isn’t yet evident. The City Council declined last month to approve a proposal by John D’Amico to install Sheriff’s Department deputies at busy intersections on Santa Monica Boulevard to see if they could ease traffic flow, citing the high cost and uncertain results. The city’s Community Development Department is likely to return with other ideas.
But while we wait, data from the U.S. Census American Community Survey (ACS) suggests there are ways to ease your own traffic woes besides working from home, riding a bicycle or (horror) taking the bus.
First some background. The ACS is an ongoing community-level survey of everything from ethnicity to household income to travel time to work in American cities. It asks different questions than those asked in the U.S. Census, which is conducted every ten years. The data is based on a survey sample, and it has a margin of error that suggests the figures might be off as much as ten percent in either direction.
One of the first things the ACS data makes clear is that if you want to spend less time driving, you should go to work earlier than 8 a.m. (or later than 10 a.m. if you can negotiate that with the boss). Half of the 19,340 of West Hollywood 34,000 residents who travel to work each day do so between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m., with the busiest period between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. That’s when 6,205 local commuters are on our roads–a figure that doesn’t include those who are passing through from Hollywood to Beverly Hills.
If you head to work between 7:30 a.m. and 8 a.m., there will likely be fewer than 2,000 commuters, about nine percent of the daily total, meaning your trip may be much faster.
While the time it takes you to drive or ride to work depends to a great extent on the distance you have to travel, an earlier commute might move you out of that 53 percent of WeHo residents whose commute takes from 30 to 90 or more minutes each day. As grim as that total sounds, only five percent travel for 90 minutes or more. Twenty percent have a half-hour commute. A lucky one percent travel from home to work, and back, in less than five minutes.
West Hollywood residents aren’t especially keen on public transportation, the use of which would obviously help curb traffic congestion.
The ACS data shows only six percent of the city’s working population uses the bus or city shuttle. That’s the same percentage as those who walk to work. Four percent carpool. Two percent bike or ride a motorcycle or take a taxi. And a whopping 71 percent drive a car by themselves.
There’s an interesting and unlikely correlation according to ACS data between the mode of transportation that we choose and our income. According to ACS, those who bicycle or drive a motorcycle or take a cab to work have an average income of $40,769 (maybe they’re all taking cabs?). Those who drive alone are the next most affluent commuting group, with an average income of $36,441. And those who take the bus make, on average, only $18,543.
People who work from home not only the avoid the hassle of traffic and save money on gas, they have an average income of $50,797. Breaking that down further, the ACS data show that less than one percent of residents earning more than $75,000 a year take the bus, while they make up 20 percent of the commuting population.
There’s also a correlation between mode of travel and race and ethnicity at all times of day (i.e. not just during a commute). The ACS data show that 68 percent of West Hollywood residents who identify as white say they drive alone while 37 percent have taken public transportation (some people do both). Among the city’s small Latino population, 73 percent take the bus while only 30 percent drive alone.
While the bus may be cheaper and more environmentally friendly, sadly it’s not the fastest way to get to work. The data show that average bus trip is 51 minutes while the average for a driver alone in his car is 30 minutes, although once again, the length of the trip is also a factor.
Page 2: Number of WeHo Commuters by Departure Times
Page 3: Travel Time to Work for WeHo Commuters
Page 4: How WeHo Residents Get to Work