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Carpooling up, transit use down in Gwinnett, survey says

For Serica Bailey, filling up the gas tank in her truck can take a lot out of her paycheck.

In the past year she has found that trading off the commute with some co-workers makes a big difference.

“With the economy, that’s a good way for people to save money,” said Bailey, who recently switched from a four-person carpool to a two-person one, as that co-worker lives closer to her Snellville home. “I can definitely see it in my bank account.”

The economy is having an impact on carpooling, said officials with the Clean Air Campaign.

Not only has the price of gas caused people to consider the option, but the improvement after the Great Recession has put more people back to work, and therefore, more out on the roads, said campaign spokesman Brian Carr of new data recently released as part of the U.S. Census’s American Community Survey.

The survey found an uptick both in commuters driving alone to work and those carpooling in Gwinnett, Carr said, but said transit and other options like walking and biking were taken less often.

“There is a correlation between commuting patterns and prosperity,” Carr said, noting that Gwinnettians tend to carpool more than people in other metro Atlanta counties.

The data also showed that about 61 percent of people surveyed live in Gwinnett and work within the county too, while the mean travel time to work is 31 minutes, slightly higher the metro mean of 30 minutes. Both are true for Bailey, who lives in Snellville and works in Duluth.

“It may be easier to find carpool partners within their neighborhood,” Carr said, pointing out that most people spend more than hour total in their cars driving each day.

With a slow economic recovery, Carr said the change on the roads has also come slowly, but he expects more soon.

“Commute patterns will change again, now that there are more people in the workforce,” he said, adding that the Clean Air Campaign helps match carpoolers and promotes other options, like teleworking. “There are lots of options to help people cope with the change, albeit slow, in the traffic patterns.”

Carol Smith doesn’t often have to deal with the drive to work.

Two years ago, the Auburn woman’s job as a customer service agent at Chico’s shifted from a Winder call center to her home office.

“I’m really spoiled,” Smith said of being home when her teenager leaves for school and when she gets home. “It’s surprising what you can do in an hour’s lunch break. I can start on dinner; I can fold laundry. … Being at home, it’s priceless.”

Smith said the option doesn’t work for everybody, but she gets more done when there are less distractions going on, and she likes to save on gas.

Every couple of months he reports for training sessions, but the majority of the work week her commute is so fast she doesn’t even have to start the engine.

“Being at home, it’s priceless,” she said.