Why do so many Atlantans drive to work alone?

Submitted by Ingrid on Thu, 04/13/2017 - 07:37

In the aftermath of the collapse of the Interstate 85 bridge, we here at the Weinstein Firm were affected by the increased road congestion, just like everyone else. Traveling to work in our usual ways became more difficult, and several of us began using mass transit systems for the first time.

This made us started wondering about Atlanta traffic, which is notorious as some of the worst in the world. After some research, we discovered that one major factor is that most Atlantans, and in fact most Georgians, drive to work alone. We are a region of commuters, despite having some fine mass transit options that we've discussed in other articles.

Statistics related to Atlanta commuting

According to County Health Rankings, 73% of workers in Fulton County drive to work alone in 2017. This percentage is actually lower than a number of other surrounding counties, including Cherokee County at 80%, Paulding County at 83%, and Cobb County at 79%. A Wikipedia article presents data from the US Census Bureau which ranks Atlanta as #30 on a list of United States cities of 100,000+ inhabitants with highest rates of public transit commuting to work.

What is affecting relatively low use of public transit?

Atlanta is famous for its traffic, and also for its sprawling metropolitan area. According to a report released in 2014 by Smart Growth America, Atlanta is the most sprawling big metro region in the country, among regions with more than 1 million in population). The Measuring Sprawl 2014 study looked at 221 metro areas and 994 counties. Considering all metro areas, not just big ones, Atlanta rates second for sprawl, at 220 on the list.

Along with this epic sprawl comes real challenges for commuters to access mass transit options in a practical and efficient way.

Clearly the region needs to improve and expand its mass transit systems

In November of 2016, voters passed two transportation funding tax increases which will provide significant funding for the Beltline, other Atlanta street projects, and expansion of MARTA buses and rail lines. This is an excellent step forward, and once completed, will certainly improve residents ability to access mass transit in a practical and economical fashion.