Oregon Labor Market Information System
Bookmark and Share
How Do Oregonians Travel to Work?
by Pat O'Connor
Published Jan-15-2013

 
The vast majority of workers in Oregon use an automobile to travel to work, be it a car, truck, SUV or a van. The Census Bureau's American Community Survey in 2011 found that 85.4 percent of Oregon's workers used an automobile to travel to work. That compares with 86.1 percent nationally. Looking at Oregon by county, the highest percentage of workers using an automobile to travel to work in 2011 was in Umatilla County, where 92 percent of workers used an automobile. Wheeler County had the lowest percentage; only 70 percent of the county's workers used an automobile to travel to work.

In 2011, 76.4 percent of U.S. workers drove alone to work, while 9.7 percent of workers carpooled to work. In Oregon, 73.2 percent of workers drove alone to work and 12.2 percent carpooled to work. Crook County led the way in carpooling, with 18 percent of the county's workers carpooling to work. Sherman County had the lowest share of workers carpooling in 2011, with only 8.5 percent.

Nationwide, 5.0 percent of workers used public transportation (excluding taxis) to travel to work in 2011. In Oregon, only 4.2 percent of workers used public transportation to get to work. The lower share of Oregonians utilizing public transportation is likely due to Oregon being more rural than the U.S., on average. Within Oregon, looking at the tri-county area, Multnomah County had the highest share of working residents using public transportation to travel to work in 2011, with 11.1 percent. Washington County and Clackamas County had 5.8 percent and 3.1 percent of workers respectively using public transportation to travel to work. At the other end of the spectrum, in rural counties such as Gilliam, Harney, Jefferson, Lake, Morrow, Wheeler, and Sherman, workers using public transportation to commute were virtually non-existent in 2011.

Two other ways that Oregonians transport themselves to work involve technology that predates combustion engines: walking and riding a bike. Oregon outpaced the nation last year in terms of the share of workers who walk and ride bikes to work. In 2011, 3.6 percent of Oregon's workers walked to work; that compares with 2.8 percent for the United States. Nationally, only 0.6 percent of workers rode bikes to work. In Oregon, 1.1 percent of workers rode their bike to work.

Within Oregon, metropolitan counties like Multnomah (4.6%), Lane (4.2%), and Benton (7.7%) counties all had a higher share of workers walking to work compared with the state average. However, it was some of Oregon's rural counties that reported having the highest share of workers walking to work. Harney, Lake, and Jefferson counties all had more than 9.0 percent of workers walking to work in 2011.

Benton County also had the highest share (4.8%) of workers biking to work in 2011 among Oregon's counties. Lane County (3.0%) and Multnomah County (1.5%) had the second and third highest percentage of workers biking to work.

Some of Oregon's workers did not have to leave the comfort of their home to arrive at work. Advances in communication and information technology are increasingly allowing workers to perform their jobs at home. In 2011, 5.0 percent of Oregon's workers worked from home. That compared with 4.3 percent of workers in the U.S. Wheeler County had far and away the highest share of workers who worked from home at 18.9 percent; this helps explain why Wheeler County had the lowest percentage of workers traveling to work in an automobile. Baker County, at 10.6 percent, had the second highest share of workers who worked from home. Umatilla County had only 3.6 percent of its workers that worked at home, the lowest share in the state.

Graph 1
Commuter departure times and minutes spent traveling to work
Early Risers Have Longer Commutes
 
In 2011, nearly three-quarters (73%) of the workers in Oregon departed for work between 5 a.m. and 8:59 a.m. The most common departure time was between 7:30 a.m. and 7:59 a.m., when 16.1 percent of all workers began their commute. The second most popular departure time was from 7:00 a.m. to 7:29 a.m., when 14.6 percent of workers departed for work. Early rising workers that departed between 5:00 a.m. and 5:59 a.m. had the longest average commute at 30.1 minutes. The shortest average commute time of 17.1 minutes was for workers who left for work between 7:30 a.m. and 7:59 a.m.

Looking at all of Oregon's workers, the average commute to work was 22.2 minutes in 2011. Harney County had the shortest average commute at 14.8 minutes. Wheeler County's average commute time of 30.8 minutes was the longest commute time of Oregon's 36 counties.