Northwest Leads In Internet Use

But can the web be a transportation solution too?

Because the Census Bureau emails me data, behold:

internet use

The table shows a rank-ordering of states with the highest rates of Internet use in 2009. Nationally, only slightly more than two-thirds of US residents access the Internet at all. (More Census data here.)

It’s groovy enough, but the Internet is sometimes overlooked as a transportation solution. That’s not to say you can drive a car on it, but that given high speeds and high rates of participation, web access can replace quite a number of trips—shopping, commuting, etc — that might otherwise occur on roadways. (We’re probably seeing some of that dynamic at work in Alaska where it’s simply not practical to make certain kinds of trips.) So given the exceedingly high rates of Internet use in the Northwest, and in Washington in particular, it would be nice to see public transportation planning focus more on Internet-oriented strategies to reduce congestion and vehicle travel.

Already, the Internet has enabled many of the clever trip-reducing web technologies that are beginning to take hold in the Northwest. Consider grocery delivery services like Vancouver, BC-based Spud, which has a presence in all the big Northwest cities, as well as Amazon fresh, which currently serves only Seattle neighborhoods but is likely to expand. Then there’s Goose Networks, the “high-tech hitchhiking” outfit that Alan has written about, as well as car-sharing networks like Zipcar. And don’t forget Seattle’s wunderkinds at Front Seat who have given us Walkscore and City-Go-Round, among other web tools to help us rethink our habits.

I’m sure there are dozens more web-based transportation strategies that I’m overlooking; leave them in comments, please!

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  1. Matt the Engineer says:

    Is it just me, or are those almost all cold or rainy states? You know, the type of states where you’re less likely to be out biking or playing sports in the middle of the winter.

  2. Oregon Michelle says:

    Matt The Engineer, good point. However according to this article, there are other reasons, such as income levels and racial demographics, that also influence Internet usage. From the article:”89 percent of Americans with an annual household income greater than $150,000 used a broadband connection at home in October, compared with 29 percent of Americans with a household income less than $15,000.””67 percent of Asian Americans and 66 percent of Caucasians used broadband at home in October, compared with 46 percent of blacks and 40 percent of Hispanics.” These reasons are probably why no Southern States are listed in Eric’s above post. They’re also among the reasons why, according to the article, the Obama administration and Congress are handing out stimulus funding for broadband. “Most of that money will be used to build networks in parts of the country that lack high-speed Internet access,” since, universal broadband is “a key to driving economic development, producing jobs and bringing educational opportunities and cutting-edge medicine to all corners of the country.”And as Eric puts it, it’ll make transportation solutions universally available, too.

  3. Rob Johnson says:

    Don’t forget about OneBusAway making it much easier for transit riders (regular, occasional, or otherwise) to leave their car at home. Also I’ve heard great things about what OnRoots is doing, so keep an eye out for them in the near future.

  4. John Niles says:

    Serious transportation researchers analyzing economic statistics supplemented by close observations of everyday life know that overall, as economies grow, the more telecommunications grows, the more the demand for transportation grows, all other things being equal. Cost issues enter the equilibrium seen as well. I’ve written extensively on this topic at Look up the work of Dr. Patricia Mokhtarian at UC Davis for extensive research on the topic.When the cost of travel goes up—blizzards, congestion, fuel prices, road pricing, airline fares—there is some travel reduction and substitution to be sure. There is also motivation to seek less expensive means of travel and shorter trips.The cost of travel going down works the other way—bright sunny days, free-flowing bridges, cheaper gas, off-peak lower tolls, and airline bargains on The short version of the telecom-transport interrelationship story is (1) being there and calling there (including picture-phoning, telepresence, etc.) have quite different outcomes in many cases across all trip purposes; (2) the internet and other telecommunications provide quite a lot of support and motivation for traveling to a place, as well as offering considerable efficiency in travel planning and destination choosing … “know before you go” as the saying goes, shown all over Vancouver, BC on electronic road signs during the Olympics advertising a web address for traffic/road closure information.

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