Percent split of modes by City of Austin employees, based on commute to work, including off-peak drive-alone trips

Status

The City of Austin is one of the largest employers in Austin, so how our employees commute to and from work can have a large impact on traffic conditions. In 2021, the drive alone rate for City employees was 54%, and the non-drive alone rate, or sustainable modes total, was 46%. 

There are several factors as to why the drive alone rate remains high, including: land use patterns where driving may be the only option; the location of City offices and buildings in areas that do not offer as many transportation options; and the fact that City employees receive free parking so there is no disincentive to driving, especially driving alone. City employees have a higher drive alone rate than Austin as a whole, partly because of where City employees live, employee job function and work schedules. Over time, more and more employees have moved outside of Austin, where options such as transit or active modes are more limited, making commuting by sustainable modes instead of driving alone challenging. Though the drive alone rate is still high, we have seen a dramatic decrease in the percentage compared to 2019 from 86% to 54% through a higher adoption rate of employees teleworking.

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The City of Austin conducts an annual survey of its employees, called End of the Year Survey. In the survey, we ask employees about their typical commute behavior during a one-week timeframe, and we calculate the mode split from that question. We started measuring mode split using surveys like this in 2018. It was not conducted in 2020 due to the pandemic.
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In previous years, City of Austin employees came in higher with a drive alone rate compared to the citywide rate of 74%, but we have seen a decrease in this percentage to 54% for 2021. For over a decade, the City has offered commuter incentives, including subsidized vanpool and transit passes. In 2017, the City established an official commute trip reduction program called Commute Connections housed in Austin Transportation. Also in 2017, Smart Commute Rewards was introduced as a new incentive program under Commute Connections. In 2021 these programs were rebranded to “Get There ATX” and continue to focus on commute incentives and educational programming. The City has made progress with encouraging sustainable commuting and decreasing drive alone trips through an increased adoption of teleworking.

Additional Measure Insights

The drive alone rate decreased by 32% in 2021. This can be explained due to an increased adoption of teleworking combined with incentive rewards to employees such as free transit passes, free bike share memberships, and subsidized van pools as part of the Get There ATX program for our employees. There is an opportunity to decrease this percentage more if employees did not receive free parking, and by increasing commuter benefits and incentives to discourage driving alone.

Measure Details and Definition

1) Definition:  Each year since 2018, we have asked City of Austin employees how they commute during the typical work week. From the responses to that question, we are able to calculate an overall average mode split among City employees. This mode split details how City employees are commuting to work, using either drive alone, transit, active modes, rideshare, telework or alternative work scheduling. Generally, we combine the transit, active, rideshare, telework, and alternative work scheduling into one category as sustainable modes or non-single occupancy vehicles, and drive alone during peak travel times and outside of peak travel times are in another category commonly referred to as single-occupancy vehicle (SOV). Doing this allows us to compare two percentages, SOV versus non-SOV.

2) Calculation method: Employees answer a question that asks how they commute each day of the typical work week. They choose a mode that they typically use for each day that they work. Our team receives this data and calculates each mode used during the week as a percentage of the whole. The percentage mode split is a result of how many trips were identified per mode out of the total possible trips (total number of respondents’ trips).

3) Data Collection Process: This data is collected in the City of Austin annual Listening to the Workforce Survey and distributed by the Human Resources Department.

4) Measure Target Calculation: The long-term target was selected to align with the overall goal of the Austin Strategic Mobility Plan to reduce drive alone trips to 50% citywide.  As a model employer and leader in the community City of Austin also aspires to achieve a 50% drive alone rate by 2039.

5) Frequency Measure is Reported: Annually (Calendar Year) - This data is collected annually. The survey is typically distributed to employees in July or August every year and results are available in the winter or spring following the survey. 

Date page was last updated: May 2022