Let’s put two myths to rest. The first is the contention by high-density developers and housing activists that Marin County has the worst record in the Bay Area when it comes to importing workers from surrounding counties. If any counties merit the spotlight, it’s Contra Costa and San Francisco.
The second fable is the alphabet agencies’ optimistic promise that if we spend more on public transit commuters will get out of their cars.
The Metropolitan Transportation Commission has recently released an analysis of Bay Area transportation patterns. Called “Vital Signs,” the report uses 14 indicators to monitor the Bay Area’s transportation network.
We can dismiss the old slam that Marin has a particularly bad record when it comes to its jobs-housing balance.
The study reports, “Most commuters live and work in the same county, although the counties of Santa Clara and San Francisco do ‘import’ significant numbers of workers.”
MTC indicates that the 66 percent of Marin residents that work and reside in-county is average for the Bay Area. Its ratio is almost the same as Alameda and better than Solano, Contra Costa and San Mateo counties.
Marin enjoys one of the lowest percentages of any county regarding either importing or exporting workers.
Activists castigating Marin for a jobs-housing imbalance fail to compare it with neighboring Bay Area counties. If there’s a pressing gap between the import-export of jobs it’s between Contra Costa, with its relatively lower cost of housing, and booming San Francisco with its plethora of well-paid jobs.
Intra-county commuting is inevitable in a dynamic economy.
“Vital Signs” presents discouraging news for transit advocates. Despite spending big bucks to shift auto traffic to buses, trains and ferries, the percentage of Bay Area residents traveling to work by transit has, if anything, slightly decreased since 1990.
Currently, 77 percent of Bay Area commuters travel by auto and 10 percent by transit. Of the remaining balance, 4 percent walk to their jobs, 6 percent work at home and 3 percent are lumped into “other.”
While the percentage of auto commuting has also slightly declined since 1990, when it stood at 81 percent, transit use remains at 10 percent. The 4 percent decrease in auto trips is attributed to the doubling of those working at home. That category grew from 3 percent to 6 percent.
If there’s an environmentally sensitive travel sector that Marin dominates it’s telecommuting. Mill Valley, Ross, Belvedere, Tiburon, Sausalito and Fairfax find themselves among the top 10 when it comes to working at home electronically.
Bike commuting increased from 1 percent to 2 percent of the regional commute over the past 25 years. Among Bay Area incorporated cities, Fairfax and Sausalito find themselves in the top 10 with 4 percent of residents pedaling to work.
With 7.3 percent of its citizenry opting to walk to work, San Anselmo foot power ties with pedestrian-friendly San Francisco for numbers enjoying a healthful commute.
Marin’s transit ridership is respectable, with 9 percent commuting by buses or ferries. While 32.6 percent of San Franciscans use transit — down from 40 percent in 1990 — Marin’s transit patronage comes in fourth among MTC’s nine counties, just behind Alameda and Contra Costa and ahead of San Mateo, Santa Clara, Solano, Sonoma and Napa.
The Marin town with highest transit ridership is Sausalito, where 15.7 percent of its employed residents use buses or its convenient ferries to get to jobs in the city.
Dick Spotswood of Mill Valley writes on local politics twice weekly in the IJ on Wednesday and Sunday. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.