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Atlanta Driving Habits Dramatically Transformed by Recession

When it comes to Atlanta’s driving habits, there is some good news and some bad news. The good news is that, over the past year, Atlantans have found more cost-effective and environmentally friendly ways to commute than 9 other studied cities. Environmentalists and other eco-minded individuals can rejoice over that. The bad news is that the changes in commuter habits came in response to the current economic recession.

A new study, commissioned by IBM, on the effects of “commuter pain,” found that out of 10 studied cities, Atlantans had changed their commute more than any other city’s residents. About 27.1% of Atlantans now use alternative commutes, work from home, or simply do not work at all, found the study.

“As businesses went through and had to take staff reductions, you had more people either not commuting, or starting small businesses and working from home,” guessed Raul Arce, a vice president for travel and transportation at IBM who lives in the Atlanta area, as quoted in the AJC.

Arce cited the fact that companies are allowing more people to telecommute as the practice becomes more common and the necessary technology becomes more accessible in residential areas.

For the study, IBM surveyed 4,446 adult drivers in 10 U.S. cities in August 2009. They looked at work performance, gas prices, sleep deprivation, stress, anger and other “painful” issues.

In better news, Atlantans also came out 10 out of 10 in the study when it comes to negative health effects from traffic. Residents of nine other cities reported more anger and stress from traffic than did Atlantans. Miami topped the list, with 27.3% of residents reporting negative health effects from traffic.

Another good and bad news indicator – last year Atlanta came in 2nd in overall “commuter pain” out of the ten studied cities. While some could look at the finding as proof that Atlantans have embraced the alternative commute, a pessimist might look at the same numbers and see that the recession has hit our part of the country exceedingly hard.

If the study seems to contradict earlier studies we reported on that ranked Atlanta high in both traffic and road rage, two reasons could be behind the discrepancy. First, IBM used an internet poll, something that survey purists often deride as unscientific. Also, IBM’s poll numbers came from August 2009 – a high point in the recession – while earlier studies took data from several years ago. So was this poll good news about Atlantans commuting habits or bad news about just how hard the recession has hit our fair city? You be the judge of that.