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Census data shows more congestion, longer drive times in metro areas of Portland

Amy Siedlecki and her husband don't go out on the town as much these days because the traffic is so slow and finding parking is such a hassle.

For her business helping homeowners cure mold and other indoor-air problems, Siedlecki won't even schedule home visits anytime near the morning and evening rush hours. "I schedule them to avoid traffic," she says.TRIBUNE FILE PHOTO  - Portland-area commuters who mutter that traffic has grown much worse in recent years aren't hallucinating. Census data show a major increase in the number of commuters the past two years as the economy heated up. The data show people also are taking a lot longer to get to work.

Eric Squires figures he wastes 50 minutes to two hours more in traffic than he did not too long ago. "The last two years, something happened," Squires says, tracing the increased congestion to the surging economy and growing number of people working.

When Squires meets real estate clients, he frequently must call en route to apologize for running late because of clogged traffic — and his clients often do the same to him.

They're clearly not alone.

Newly released U.S. Census Bureau data for Portland shows in stark numbers what we all have been feeling when we get behind the wheel:

n In just two years, there's been an increase of 18,854 Portland residents commuting to work — 6.3 percent more from 2014 to 2016 — according to the Census Bureau's annual American Community Surveys.

n An estimated 24,111 Portland residents take an hour or more to commute to work, a 35.4 percent increase in just two years.

n The number of Portland commuters taking 30 to 59 minutes getting to work grew by 20.5 percent from 2014 to 2016.

It's likely only gotten worse in 2017, though we'll have to wait for that data.

You might suppose more Portlanders would want to leave their cars at home and let someone else do the driving. But the American Community Surveys show mixed results:

n An increased number of city residents were able to work from home in 2016 compared to 2014.

n The share of commuters using public transportation rose a bit, from 11.8 percent in 2014 to 12.9 percent in 2016.

However:

n The share of all city residents who drove to work alone in 2016 reached 58.2 percent, up slightly from 57.6 percent two years earlier.

n The number who commuted via taxi, motorcycle, bicycle, on foot or other means fell slightly from 2014 to 2016, accounting for a smaller share of the growing pie of commuters.

n The number of people carpooling to work dropped 4.9 percent from 2014 to 2016.

Killing time

When Katie Weinberg lived in West Linn from 2009 to 2011, she recalls it took about 20 minutes to drive to work in downtown Portland, and about 20 minutes to get home at night.

When she moved back to West Linn in 2015, she was shocked to find her commute time doubled, or even worse.

"Sometimes it would take over an hour to get home," Weinberg says.

Squires, who lives in the Cooper Mountain area near Beaverton, recalls the morning rush hour was 7 a.m. to 8 a.m. or 7 a.m. to 9 a.m.

Not anymore.

Now it's common for him to find inbound traffic on the Sunset Highway clogged as early as 5 a.m.

It used to take him an hour to get to meetings in Gresham. Now it takes an hour and a half each way, gobbling up half his work day and reducing the amount of time he has to do business.

Once a month, Squires and some westside co-workers attend a business meeting in Gresham, and they used to like to drive together. But that, too, has gotten much harder to do because of traffic congestion.

"We're trying to carpool, and that's even worse for me," he says.

TriMet buses also are slower when the car traffic around them clogs.

Weinberg cut her commute time by moving to Milwaukie, but still is frustrated by the worsening traffic. "I noticed it getting worse and worse and worse as time went on," she says. "I don't know the answer. I'm thinking about riding my bike."

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