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News / Business

Commuter trend heading north into Vancouver

By Eric Florip, Columbian Transportation & Environment Reporter
Published: August 14, 2015, 5:00pm

Clark County residents work in:

• Clark County: 120,611.

• Multnomah County, Ore.: 44,756.

• Washington County, Ore.: 6,175

• Clackamas County, Ore.: 5,247.

• Cowlitz County: 3,389.

Clark County workers live in:

• Clark County: 120,611.

• Multnomah County, Ore.: 9,588.

• Cowlitz County: 3,267.

• Washington County, Ore.: 2,403.

• Clackamas County, Ore.: 2,204.

Note: Figures reflect five-year average from 2009-2013.

SOURCE: U.S. Census Bureau

People tend to think of the daily migration from Clark County to greater Portland as a one-way street. Tens of thousands of Washington residents head to jobs in Oregon each morning, then return home in the evening.

New U.S. Census Bureau data released this week show more and more people making the trip in reverse: living in Oregon, but commuting to jobs in Clark County.

That trend has built slowly and steadily for years, said Scott Bailey, regional labor economist for the state Employment Security Department. And it shouldn’t come as a surprise, he said.

“I think that this is a typical pattern of suburban versus the core area, where at first it’s mostly one way,” Bailey said. “But it slowly evens out over time as that employment spreads.”

Clark County residents work in:

&#8226; Clark County: 120,611.

&#8226; Multnomah County, Ore.: 44,756.

&#8226; Washington County, Ore.: 6,175

&#8226; Clackamas County, Ore.: 5,247.

&#8226; Cowlitz County: 3,389.

Clark County workers live in:

&#8226; Clark County: 120,611.

&#8226; Multnomah County, Ore.: 9,588.

&#8226; Cowlitz County: 3,267.

&#8226; Washington County, Ore.: 2,403.

&#8226; Clackamas County, Ore.: 2,204.

Note: Figures reflect five-year average from 2009-2013.

SOURCE: U.S. Census Bureau

Bailey pointed to Oregon’s Washington County, which has seen its dynamic with Portland shift over time.

“It used to be a one-way commute,” Bailey said, with Washington County residents heading to jobs in Portland. Now, thousands of people also travel west to major employers in Beaverton and Hillsboro, Ore.

About 56,000 Clark County residents commuted to work in Oregon’s Multnomah, Washington or Clackamas counties on average from 2009 to 2013, according to census data. Close to 14,000 people traveled the other direction, heading from one of those three counties to work in Clark County.

Separate data released this week show the inflow of workers to Clark County is on the rise. In Multnomah County, for example, the number of residents traveling to jobs in Clark County increased for the fourth consecutive year in 2013.

Clark County has also sent more workers to Oregon in recent years, but the increase doesn’t appear as rapid as the other direction, according to the data.

Of course, far more people still leave Clark County each workday than enter it from somewhere else. And soldiers of the daily slog say traffic isn’t getting any better.

“It feels like it’s worse,” Vancouver resident Christian Bullock said. “It really does, by a fairly considerable margin.”

Bullock started commuting to a shared office in Portland a few days per week this summer after more than two years of working entirely at home. He had commuted to Portland before he started working remotely in search engine marketing.

Bullock started using the Portland office space to escape some of the distractions of a home office, he said. He’s often more productive on work days in Portland, he said, but it comes at a cost.

“It’s really reminded me of how much of a pain it is to drive, at least during normal commute hours,” Bullock said.

For Bruce Grembowski, the morning commute to work begins before many people are even awake. The Washougal resident leaves his home just after 5 a.m. to get to his job at Columbia Sportswear near Beaverton.

It’s a 35-mile trip each way. The drive takes 45 minutes in the morning, and up to an hour and a half in the afternoon — even though Grembowski leaves work at 2:30 p.m., well before the worst of the commute.

“I found out I couldn’t avoid traffic in the afternoon,” Grembowski said. “It’s pretty much busy all the time.”

More than 120,000 people both live and work in Clark County, according to Census data. Its relationship with Portland will continue to shift as Clark County continues to diversify its employment base, Bailey said. Recently, Portland has also grown faster than the suburbs that used to outpace it, he said.

As for the trend of more Oregon residents coming to work in Clark County: “I expect that to continue,” he said.

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Columbian Transportation & Environment Reporter