Commuters: Better Jobs Worth the Long Drive, Winchester Star

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Commuters: Better Jobs Worth the Long Drive

The Winchester Star
Thursday, September 9, 2003

The Survey Says...

In June, the University of Virginia Center for Survey Research interviewed 1,247 workers in the northern Shenandoah Valley. Of that group, 293 said they commute to their jobs.

The following survey responses indicate how those local commuters feel about traveling to and from work:

* 53.3 percent enjoy the benefits of commuting.

* 38.4 percent dislike commuting.

* 64.3 percent would not consider working locally for less money.

* 35.7 percent might consider working locally for less money.

A northern Shenandoah Valley work force study conducted by the University of Virginia Center for Survey Research gleaned this information from a June telephone survey that targeted workers in Winchester and Frederick, Clarke, and Shenandoah counties.

The results of the survey were released by economic development officials on Wednesday at the Lord Fairfax Community College Special Events Center.

Of the estimated 12,700 commuters who travel out of the region for a one-way trip of at least 30 minutes to work, 53 percent said commuting provides an opportunity for better pay and benefits, better chances for advancement, and a relaxing drive.

Thirty-eight percent said they dislike commuting because of its time, stress, cost, and fatigue and safety concerns.

“Your commuters are not quite as annoyed as other places,” said Thomas M. Guterbock, director of the Center for Survey Research.

The survey received responses from 1,247 workers, with 293 — or 23.5 percent — determined to be commuters. About half of those commuters work in Northern Virginia.

The economic development agencies of the participating jurisdictions commissioned the survey about a year ago to see if there are opportunities to bring businesses to the area that would fit the needs of the commuting population.

About 36 percent of the commuters surveyed said they would or might consider taking less money for a local job, if the pay cut was not more than 10 percent.

The survey showed that local workers make an average salary of $25,300 from their primary job, while commuters make $43,900.

“If we create the jobs here, they still may not come,” said Roger Crosen, a member of the Winchester-Frederick County Economic Development Commission. “People who come here appear to come to live and not to work.”

EDC Executive Director Patrick Barker said because the survey did not show a critical mass of commuters interested in working locally for slightly less money, it would be difficult to target those workers in an attempt to bring their jobs closer to home.

The survey results showed commuters are usually newcomers to the area and are most often full-time male workers.

About 15 percent of local residents moved to the area in the last five years, with about 26 percent coming from Northern Virginia and almost 38 percent from areas outside the states of Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, and Washington, D.C.

EDC member Gary W. Dove said this tells him that there isn’t the local influx from Northern Virginia that some people claim.

Guterbock said locals could just be seeing the beginning of a larger movement west from Northern Virginia.

The survey also asked participants what kinds of jobs they would like to see in the northern Shenandoah Valley.

Guterbock said the survey predictably showed about 40 percent of the respondents would like more white-collar or professional jobs, but he was surprised at the high number (25 percent) who mentioned manufacturing or factory positions.

The overall, average one-way commuter travel time in the region is about even with the national average of 25 minutes, according to the survey.

Clarke County had the most unusual commuting population, with most people having drives of less than 15 minutes or more than 30 minutes.

The survey conducted 1,005 interviews with 1,853 participants. Of that group, 1,247 participants were workers.

The survey has a 2.5 percent overall margin of error.

View Winchester Star article.