Survey: Many Pittsburgh commuters use vehicle, light rail and bus

Riders wait for light rail cars at the T station in the North Shore.
Riders wait for light rail cars at the T station in the North Shore.
Photo by James Knox | Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
| Thursday, Jan. 14, 2016, 11:15 p.m.

Commuting to Pittsburgh's Downtown or Oakland neighborhoods can involve more than one set of wheels — even if traffic is light — with many workers using a park-and-ride lot, the light rail and sometimes a bus to reach offices.

Preliminary results from the “Make My Trip Count” survey of more than 20,700 commuters from September to October found 46 percent said they commute Downtown, 34 percent to Oakland, and the remainder to other business districts.

“People make complex trips,” said Aurora Sharrard, executive director and vice president of innovation at the Green Building Alliance, which collaborated with Envision Downtown and Pittsburgh to inform transit planners about how people travel.

“One of the interesting things we were able to do with this survey is not to assume people take one mode of transportation,” she said. “We know that people change based on the season, the weather, the day of the week.”

About 34 percent of respondents use more than one mode to get to work. Nearly 10 percent arrived at work by biking, walking or telecommuting.

Less than half said their commute involves driving alone, a result at odds with 2013 U.S. Census data showing 78 percent of commuters travel alone in cars.

But Isaac Smith, the Green Building Alliance building performance analyst, said the results his group obtained have not been broken down geographically, which might reveal more about driver patterns based on where they originate and where they are going.

Analysts will post data from the survey this spring through the Western Data Pennsylvania Regional Data Center.

Most results came from an online survey, but there were about 170 paper responses.

The Green Building Alliance distributed it to its Pittsburgh 2030 project partners, including large employers such as Highmark and UPMC.

About 10,000 responses came from people who work Downtown, Smith said, representing about 10 percent of the daily commuting population in the city's largest commercial center.

Smith said some respondents shared concerns about transit availability, saying they would drive less if there were more public transportation options.

“Either they didn't have access to specific routes, or the routes were taken away,” Smith said. “That was their biggest concern or a trigger in changing their commuting patterns.”

Data will be shared with 12 transportation regional partners in the project, including the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, Port Authority of Allegheny County, and the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission.

Another survey is planned.

“This becomes almost a baseline for future comparisons,” Sharrard said.

Melissa Daniels is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 412-380-8511 or

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