Metro Washington Survey Shows 15 Per Cent Now Telecommute

In data from a recently completed commuting survey, almost 15 percent of the workforce in metropolitan Washington telecommutes at least once a week. A complete report on the results of the State-of-the-Commute Survey conducted for the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG) is scheduled for a spring release.

Compared to a similar 1998 study, 150,000 more people are now telecommuting - a 60 per cent increase in two years. "This significant increase over the 1998 survey results will be used to update the current estimates for the region's air quality conformity analysis," said Gerald Connolly, board member of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG).

According to Nicholas Ramfos, head of Commuter Connections, the COG's program that provides commuters with help finding commute alternatives to driving to work alone, funding for roadway construction projects is tied to conformity to air quality goals set by the Environmental Protection Agency. "Each year we actually go in and measure the air quality improvement that our programs have caused in the region."

Last year the COG's Board of Directors established a goal to have 20 per cent of the total workforce in the Virginia, Maryland, and DC region telecommuting by 2005. The executive director of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, Michael Rodgers estimated that if the 20 per cent telework goal is reached 185,000 people will work from home each day, 70,000 fewer vehicles will be traveling during the rush hour and automobile emissions will be reduced by 1.2 tons.

The recent survey also suggests that there is substantial growth potential for telecommuting in the Washington metropolitan area. Beyond the 15 per cent of the regional work force who now telecommute, an additional 18 per cent of all workers could and would telecommute if given the opportunity. The survey indicates that 21 per cent of all non-teleworkers, equaling 475,000 people, would like to telework at least one day per week. The highest concentration of non-teleworkers who could and would telecommute if given the opportunity are employees work for the larger employers. Companies with 1,000 or more employees account for 28 per cent, followed closely by companies with 251-999 employees (26 per cent). Federal agencies accounted for more than 26 per cent of non-teleworkers who could and would telecommute if given the opportunity.

The COG's board says if a significant number of employers adopt telework programs it will ease the transportation congestion, reduce air emissions and the region would attain their air quality conformity goals.