Transit to jobs

A few notes from yesterday’s Brookings event unveiling “Missed Opportunity: Transit and Jobs in Metropolitan America.”

– Over the course of the recession, household incomes have fallen by $2000 and now gas costs have increased by $1000. That’s quite a squeeze!
– By 2050, America will add 130 million people — equivalent to the 2010 population of every state west of the Mississippi.
– Interesting distinction (which they explore in the report) within the Sunbelt between Western and Southern cities. I knew (having grown up in a southern suburb) that Southern cities lagged in transit coverage, but it’s really quite striking just how awful the buses are down there.
– 70% of metro Americans have transit access at home, so when people say “I don’t live near transit, it doesn’t benefit me” they’re probably lying. Put more nicely, that’s a teachable moment, and agencies could market their services better.
– The online mapping tool‘s “travel time” feature kind of reminds me of Mapnificent, but with less elegant geography and with some other data layers available.
– Sec. LaHood, answering a question about how to sell his fellow Republicans on the mere idea of investment, underscored that “debt is one priority among many.”
– These are the “biggest cities” for those of us who have specialized occupations, despise long commutes, and refuse to drive to work; i.e., metros ranked by the number of jobs reachable by the typical transit served household within a 45-minute trip (and their metro population rank in 2010):
New York: 946,058 (1)
Boston: 346,424 (10)
Chicago: 317,096 (3)
Washington: 277,092 (7)
San Francisco-Oakland: 240,819 (11)
Los Angeles: 225,838 (2)
Philadelphia-Camden: 202,724 (5)
Milwaukee: 135,829 (39)
Minneapolis-Saint Paul: 130,967 (16)
Houston: 126,364 (6)
Seattle: 117,441 (15)
Baltimore: 106,384 (20)
Pittsburgh: 102,333 (22)

Three bigger themes worth exploring:
– Households appear to be increasingly sold on the value of transit access, but it seems that corporate decision makers need to learn about the value of transit accessibility. Regional chambers of commerce would be a good platform for this education — one example that comes to mind is the Metropolis Pledge — and perhaps also commercial real estate brokerages could play a role. Once upon a time, I worked for a company that was in the process of relocating a large number of workers away from transit; their internal surveys showed that many workers were displeased with the move, but employees were only consulted after the decision had been made.
– Last mile circulation does not appear cost-effective with standard metrics like farebox recovery ratio or passenger loads, according to Keith Parker from VIA in San Antonio. Yet this segment of the transit market is the prime PPP opportunity, whether in shuttle buses or TOD or whatever, since the last mile is where the real value capture opportunities lie.
– From an urban design standpoint, there’s been some discussion at past CNUs about workplace New Urbanism, and to broaden the typical definition of “mixed use” from the usual (residential with some retail and maybe a bit of office, all of which is fairly high-rent). It’s a little disingenuous to say that all workplaces can be brought near transit — many of the low-skilled industries that Brookings identifies as lacking in transit access are probably hopelessly dispersed or just rural (agriculture, forestry, mining, repair, construction). Seems like there’s plenty of scope to bring many mid-skilled industries (manufacturing, TCU) into the TOD fold.

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