The percentage of solo drivers in Marin who commute to work is among the lowest in the Bay Area, only behind transit-heavy San Francisco, according to U.S. Census data.

The data also suggest Marin has the highest percentage of workers in the Bay Area who walk or bike to work, or simply work from home.

The data show that 65.2 percent of Marin workers drive alone, second only to San Francisco, which sees 37.6 percent of its workforce go solo in a car, according to figures from the census' 2011 American Community Survey, which is based on questionnaires given to workers age 16 and older. Alameda County is a close third behind Marin with 65.4 percent of its workers driving solo. Solano County has the highest percentage at 76.7 percent, almost even with Santa Clara County at 76.6 percent.

"That is great news; it is our primary goal as a congestion management agency to get solo drivers off the road," said Dianne Steinhauser, executive director of the Transportation Authority of Marin. "It's good for our health, our quality of life and the environment."

Marin voters passed Measure A in 2004, a half-cent sales tax that goes toward transportation needs, and it has helped fund a continuous carpool lane in the county, bus service and other projects designed to get solo drivers off the road.

Marin commuters have also taken to ferry service out of Larkspur. The service has topped the 2 million ridership mark for the second year in a

row, said Mary Currie, Golden Gate Ferry spokeswoman.

"The ferries are running at capacity out of Larkspur," Currie said. "The ferry allows people to use their time more efficiently because they can work on the boats."

The Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit train linking Marin and Sonoma counties, slated to begin in late 2015 or early 2016, could help further lower the number of solo drivers.

"It will not only be good for solo drivers but all commuters," said Farhad Mansourian, SMART's general manager. "It will reduce pressure on Highway 101 and add another travel option for commuters in the corridor."

The same census survey shows 8.4 percent of workers in Marin carpool, and another 8.3 percent take public transit. Solano County has the highest percentage of carpoolers at 13.2 percent and San Francisco the lowest at 7.3 percent. Napa County has the lowest percentage of workers who take public transit at 1.1 percent, with San Francisco the highest at 31.5 percent.

What the data don't detail in Marin is the 19 percent - the highest percentage in the Bay Area - of workers who don't drive, carpool or take public transit.

"The Bay Area average for bike commuters is about 10 percent and it is thought to be higher in Marin," Steinhauser said, indicating bike commuters likely make up the bulk of that 19 percent. "The county and the Marin County Bicycle Coalition have done a lot of work to promote biking."

Contact Mark Prado via email at mprado@marinij.com

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©2012 The Marin Independent Journal (Novato, Calif.)

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