The roadway congestion we experience in our region is largely driven by our commuting decisions. Previous articles in this series described congestion in Hampton Roads and how we commute. This article will examine when we commute in Hampton Roads and how that impacts roadway congestion.
The U.S. Census Bureau, as part of the information they collect on commuting, produces data on the time of day that residents throughout the country leave for work. According to this data, 75% of all commuters in Hampton Roads left for work between 5:00 am and 9:00 am daily in 2009. During the busiest hour, which was between 7:00 am and 8:00 am in 2009, 26% of all Hampton Roads commuters left for work. In raw numbers, this means that 208,000 people in Hampton Roads left for work between 7 am and 8 am, which means hundreds of thousands of vehicles are all on the regional roadway network at the same time.
These percentages have decreased slightly over the years. In 1990, 77% of all Hampton Roads commuters left for work between 5:00 am and 9:00 am, and 28% left between 7:00 and 8:00 am. In 2000, these percentages were 76% and 29% respectively. With the population growing in Hampton Roads, however, many more commuters are on the roads now than were previously. In fact, over 90,000 more people commuted to work in Hampton Roads between 5am and 9 am each day in 2009 than did in 1990.
This situation is not unique to Hampton Roads. In the 35 comparable metropolitan areas throughout the country with a population between one and three million people, an average of 72% of commuters left for work between 5 am and 9 am in 2009, with 28% leaving between 7 am and 8 am. Commuters in Hampton Roads, however, tend to leave for work earlier than in other large metropolitan areas, largely due to the earlier work schedules of the military.
The large number of commuters that are on the region's roadways at the same time contributes to the congestion levels we experience in Hampton Roads. If Hampton Roads commuters could further spread out the time that they leave for work throughout the day, it would greatly decrease the amount of congestion we see throughout our region.
The next article in this series will look at where we commute and how that impacts congestion in our region.
Time Leaving for Work in Hampton Roads, 2009
Data source: U.S Census Bureau.