Transit, bike, and carpooling stars: Stanford commute mode share by location

Stanford University’s region-leading transportation demand management program has released revealing information about the relationship between where employees live and how they commute.

Transit stars

Perhaps no surprise, by far the highest transit use is by employees who live in East San Francisco near Caltrain, with access to the full Baby Bullet schedule, in a dense city with plenty to do within waking distance, robust transit, and expensive parking.

There are also strong transit contingents from elsewhere on the Caltrain line and transitshed, including downtown and East San Jose, Cambell/Central San Jose, San Mateo/Burlingame, Belmont/Foster City.

Perhaps more of a surprise, at least to those who are less familiar with Stanford’s excellent TDM services, is the high transit use from the East Bay.  Nearly half of Stanford’s employees who live in Alameda County take one of the Dumbarton buses, or Stanford’s transbay Marguerite.  Stanford provides subsidies for the bus, plus coaching with park-and-ride for first mile.

Mainstream bike commuting

Another striking finding is the robust bicycle mode share for employees who work within several miles of campus.  Between 25 and 40% of Stanford employees who live in Menlo Park or Palo Alto bicycle to work, depending on neighborhood, and over 10% in Mountain View neighborhoods closer to Stanford.

This dovetails with data from Google’s Bike Vision Plan showing that 20% of Google employees who live within a 5-10 mile radius already bicycle to work (and Google’s goal is to work with the public sector create a low-stress network of routes to double the rate to 40%.  Taking this success into account, Mountain View is planned for a 10% bike and walk mode share for its North Bayshore plan overall, even before planning to add housing.


Carpool strength

The highest use of carpooling – 10-15%, was found in areas with longer commutes and weaker transit options, including West San Francisco, Alameda County, Contra Costa County, and North San Jose/Fremont/Milpitas. Interestingly, all of these areas still had higher transit mode share than carpool.

Supporting transportation choices

One of the strengths of Stanford’s program is that they offer different benefits that are helpful to commuters with different transportation resources; including transit passes, first-mile assistance, carpool matching help, and bicycle training.

For all nondriving employees, Stanford provides a “guaranteed ride home” service for commuters who occasionally need to leave during the middle of the day for a family task or work late, at times when transit is not running frequently, plus ZipCar access for people who need to run errands in the middle of the day.

And Stanford balances the incentives by charging for parking, avoiding the common practice of offering the deepest subsidies for solo driving using expensive real estate.

Highest drive rates – medium distance, poor transit

The highest drivealone shares are come from commuters who live moderately close, but further than a 5-mile bike ride, in low-density areas with poor transit options, including Portola Valley, Los Altos,  Sunnyvale, Santa Clara, and Cupertino.

As you can see in the legend at the bottom of the graph, green is transit, blue is bicycling, purple is walking, gold is rideshare, and salmon is drivealone.


The information is published as part of the review process for the update of Stanford’s General Use Permit with Santa Clara County, which is also being reviewed by neighboring cities including Palo Alto (we found the data in the staff report for Palo Alto’s Planning and Transportation Committee)