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Published: Thursday, 10/29/2009

Monroe commuters alone in driver's seat

BY JON CHAVEZ
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER

When it comes to commuting to and from the workplace, no drivers in the nation are more alone than Monroe residents.

Metro Monroe tied for first among 363 areas nationwide in the percentage of workers 16 or older who travel to work by car or truck all by their lonesome, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

At 87.3 percent, or nearly 9 out of every 10 workers, Monroe and Jackson, Tenn., ranked first among workers who drove alone to their jobs.

The odd statistic is among new socioeconomic, housing, and demographic data gathered between 2006 and 2008 by the Census Bureau and was released this week as part of its American Community Survey.

"I personally don't know anybody that actually carpools. And just by scanning the parking lot and looking at everyone heading off to lunch or leaving, most everybody gets in their cars all by themselves," said Joe Verkennes, spokesman for Monroe Community College.

"I guess this doesn't surprise me," he added.

At 84.1 percent, Toledo was ranked 40th nationwide in terms of driving alone to work. Elsewhere in northwest Ohio, Sandusky was ninth at 85.7 percent and Lima 33rd at 84.4 percent.

Among larger Ohio cities, Youngstown was fifth at 86.2 percent, Akron 14th at 85.3 percent, Dayton 72nd at 83 percent, Columbus 77th at 82.8 percent, Cincinnati 97th at 82.2 percent, and Cleveland 110th at 81.8 percent.

The New York metro area was last, with just 50.4 percent of workers driving to work alone.

The national average was 75.8 percent.

Mark Jagodzinski, head of Lake Erie Transit, the bus system in the city of Monroe, said he was not expecting the odd finding.

"That really surprises me, because we do have those who use our service to go to work. I really can't say why [the percentage] is so high," he said.

Monroe City Manager George Brown was reluctant to even hazard a guess as to why so many residents drive to work solo. "I hadn't ever heard about this. I don't really know what to make of it," he said.

But Robert Peven, interim director of planning for the city of Monroe theorized that Monroe's geographical location - sandwiched by Detroit and Toledo - might play a key role.

"Monroe does have a lot of people who commute out of the county to work. They go to Detroit, to Ann Arbor, to Toledo," he said.

"Since a lot of those employees are involved in manufacturing, and manufacturing demands a lot of odd shifts with some working noon or night, it stands to reason that it would be difficult to carpool if you're heading in all directions at different times of the day."

Mr. Peven said a community that is a suburb of a major city has a better chance of using carpools, because most workers would be headed in the same direction and able to use mass transit or carpool lanes.

"You'd be more likely to find people with the same hours and or those going to the same locations to work," he said.

Contact Jon Chavez at:

jchavez@theblade.com

or 419-724-6128.



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