According to the Texas Transportation Institute's 2011 Urban Mobility Report, Atlanta ranked modestly in most commute statistics except for one. Georgia's capital came in first for longest total peak-period travel time with 127 minutes on the road for the average commuter each weekday.
At roughly an hour each way, the total per week comes to 635 minutes for the average Atlanta commute. That's more than 10 and a half hours a week spent on the road to and from work -- amounting to 529 hours, or 22 days, each year.
Bartow County residents are increasingly among those racking up time on the interstate. In 2009, the U.S. Census Bureau recorded 68 percent of Bartow residents worked jobs located outside the county. That number has risen steadily from 64 percent in 2004.
Conversely, only 58 percent of jobs located within Bartow were filled by county residents in 2009. That number too has increased, from 47 percent in 2004.
Rachel Wall, an employee of Georgia Highlands College is one of those working in Bartow while residing outside the county. For Wall, the situation arose from the school's growth being transferred as new campuses were added and demands rose. Recently, Wall has begun carpooling to ease the 30-to-45 minute commute from Woodstock while taking advantage of the Clean Air Campaign's Cash for Commuters program.
"I carpool two of the four days I normally work and I just started that this semester," Wall said. "I would say we have a lot of people for whom travel is an issue -- that figuring out a way to carpool would be very nice. There's a good bit of traveling involved. We have five, going on six campuses now and it's starting to be an issue when we hire."
Employees of Georgia Highlands regularly seek out commute alternatives, said Wall. The school encourages carpooling when faculty and staff meet at one location for special events and administration often utilizes video conferencing when it is appropriate.
Although sometimes carpoolers, including Wall, run into scheduling conflicts with their ride partners, she has found additional benefits outweighing any drawbacks. Wall and her colleague live near one another and have a lot to talk about on the way too and from work. The chatting, she finds, makes the drive seem to go by quicker.
An advocate for carpooling and other forms of commute alternatives, Communications Director for The Clean Air Campaign Brian Carr commented on another notable ranking found in the 2011 mobility report. Many cities, including Atlanta, saw a sizable decrease in "wasted time" during commutes. Since 2005, Atlanta's wasted time dropped from 58 hours a year to 43 hours in 2010.
"The decline in the number of wasted hours can be tied a little bit to unemployment as this region has grappled with, in some cases, double-digit unemployment for the last few years. But I think it's also a testament to the fact that more people are investigating their options for using alternatives for driving alone," Carr said.
To bolster that statement, Carr referenced a Georgia Department of Transportation study, the 2010 Regional Commuter Survey, showing that the number of drive-alone commuters in the Atlanta area has decreased over the past three years.
Newly opened Hot Lanes on Interstate 85 are pay-for-use express lanes aimed at reducing commute times and easing congestion. Further projects are proposed through GDOT's Public Private Partnership to extend the pay lanes into Interstate 75 and Interstate 575. Currently, carpools of three or more will use the Hot Lanes for free.
"This project is of course gaining a lot of attention right now and what we're tasked to do is to help commuters to make sense of what their options are for traveling that corridor, which includes driving alone and paying a toll. But it also includes getting three people in a carpool and riding in that lane toll free," Carr said.
For more information on carpooling or other commute alternatives visit, www.cleanaircampaign.org or call 1-877-259-2624.