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Dueling facts: Is telecommuting growing or not?

By Layer 8 on Wed, 06/13/07 - 4:40pm.

Anecdotally you know telecommuting is growing but many days when you get out on the road, it looks like that notion is bunk.  And some of it just might be if you give a  new study out today from the US Census Bureau much weight: despite rising fuel costs, 77% of commuters continue to drive their cars – alone—most of the time.  The kicker is that the survey looks at  2005 figures –the latest it has --  from U.S. Census Bureau American Community Service analysis. As for telecommuting, the bureau says approximately 4% us worked from home in 2005. Large cities with high rates of home-based workers included Austin, Texas (5%); Colorado Springs, Colo. (5%); Portland, Ore. (5.3%); San  Francisco (6.3% ); and Seattle, a little over 5%. 

The bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS) found that driving to work was the favored means of commute of nearly nine out of 10 workers (88%). In contrast, almost 5% f commuters used public transportation to travel to work in 2005, a negligible increase 2000 levels. It also said about half of the nation’s public transportation commuters can be found in 10 of the nation’s 50 cities with the most workers age 16 or over: Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington, D.C. These cities account for 2.9 million of the nation’s 6.2 million users of public transportation.       

The 2005 ACS estimates are based on an annual, nationwide household sample of about 250,000 addresses per month. Geographic areas for which data are available are based on total populations of 65,000 or more. 

Some other commuter facts of interest include:-   Approximately one in 10 workers (10.7%) car pool to work.

-   About three-fourths of car poolers (77% ) ride with just one other person. 

-   Large cities with some of the highest rates of car pooling include Fresno, Calif. (15%); Honolulu (15.6%); Mesa, Ariz. (16.7%); Phoenix (16%); and Sacramento, Calif., (almost 16%).-   Portland, Ore., has the distinction among large cities as having the highest percentage of bicycle commuters. Approximately 3.5% of Portland’s workers pedal to work, about eight times the national average of 0.4 percent.

-   Boston had the highest percentage among large cities of employees who walk to work (13%). Nationally, almost 3% of workers walked to work, the fourth most popular mode of transportation behind driving and using public transportation. 

With regards to telecommuting the ACS might be a bit behind the times or right on target.  A CDW Government study released in Marc said during the past year, telework growth in the federal government also outpaced the private sector: 35% of Federal teleworkers started teleworking, compared to 10% of private-sector teleworkers. It also said 44% of federal-employee respondents to the survey indicate that they have the option to telework – up 6% from 2006 – while 15% of private-sector employee respondents have that option, CDW says.  

Add that notion to the fact that according to the 2006 National Technology Readiness survey  most U.S. workers (70%) still commute to work every day, while just 2% telecommute full-time,. The U.S. share of telecommuters would grow to 25% if it were practiced by everyone who had the option to telecommute and had the kind of job amenable to telecommuting, and this would save $3.9 billion per year in fuel costs, the survey says. 

A study in January found that over 60% of 1,320 global executives surveyed by executive search firm Korn/Ferry International believed that telecommuters are less likely to advance in their careers in comparison to employees working in traditional office settings. Company executives want face time with their employees, the study said. So its obvious that not all attitudes toward telecommuting have changed at least.