Study: Getting to work by public transit is easiest in NYC, San Francisco and D.C.

January 10, 2017

A recent report from the University of Minnesota takes a look at major U.S. cities in terms of the number of jobs that are accessible to city residents via transit; Streetsblog brings us the news that you’ll find the best transit access to jobs in New York, San Francisco, Chicago, D.C., Los Angeles, Boston, Philadelphia, Seattle, San Jose and Denver. The study concludes that in those (top 10) cities, “accessibility ranks all exhibit a combination of high density land use and fast, frequent transit service.” According to the report, public transit is used for about five percent of commuting trips in the U.S., making it the second most widely used commute mode after driving. But the commute mode share accorded to transit varies quite a bit from city to city: 31 percent in the New York metropolitan area; 11 percent in Chicago; 8 percent in Seattle.

University of Minnesota, Transit Commute Rankings, Transit Study, Public Transportation, Transit, Cities, Jobs, Employment

The university’s research team analyzed transit schedules and measured walking distance to transit stations for every one of the nation’s census tracts, then took a look at how many jobs were accessible by transit to the average person in each region at 10-minute intervals to figure out how many jobs our average Joe (or Jane) could reach in intervals of up to an hour. The team ranked cities based on the average of those numbers, with jobs given decreasing weight as travel time increased, up to 60 minutes.

The study notes that census-defined boundaries do add an element of randomness to the rankings. But while small regions have fewer jobs than big regions and thus fewer transit accessible jobs, rankings tend to hold up when you adjust for size. Some metro areas exceed expectations: Seattle and Denver, for example, get high marks for having lots of jobs within transit access. Both cities have seen rising commitment to expanding their transit systems in recent years. And with many cities, the numbers add up based on case-by-case circumstances.

For not-unfathomable reasons, New York City topped the list for transit-accessible employment: About 14 percent of the region’s 8.5 million jobs are transit accessible. On the low end of the scale, in Birmingham, Alabama, only 3.4 percent of nearly 500,000 total jobs are accessible within a 60-minute transit commute. The study also took a look at job accessibility via walking and driving. As it turns out, in every U.S. city, there are more jobs accessible to the average resident by car than by public transit (though large cities like New York see less of an auto advantage than smaller cities).

University of Minnesota civil engineering professor and study co-author David Levinson makes the point that accessibility is an ideal way to assess how well our cities’ infrastructure is serving the people who live in them: “We build cities to maximize access, so that people can easily reach other people, goods, and ideas they care about. Without the benefits of access, there would be no reason for cities at all.”

[Via Streetsblog]


Images: University of Minnesota

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