Report ranks metropolitan areas by transit accessibility

By Chris McCahill

Researchers at the University of Minnesota released a new report ranking major metropolitan areas in terms of their accessibility to jobs by transit. The new Access Across America report complements the group’s 2013 release, which measured job accessibility by automobile, and builds upon their ongoing efforts to develop tools for assessing transportation performance in terms other than mobility and congestion.

The researchers collected detailed transit route and schedule information for 46 of the largest metropolitan areas in the U.S. and calculated the number of jobs a typical resident can reach by transit and walking in cumulative 10-minute intervals between 7:00 am and 9:00 am. In their ranking scheme, jobs are given more weight if they are reachable within a shorter timeframe or by a greater number of people. Cities like Washington, Philadelphia, Seattle, and Denver perform considerably better in the transit report, compared to the 2013 automobile accessibility report, while cities like Minneapolis, Dallas, and Houston drop out of the top ten ranking entirely.

The researchers acknowledge that their measure paints an incomplete picture (e.g., by using jobs as a proxy for all activities and by failing to account for the types of jobs available) and also that a region’s performance has almost as much to do with city size and land use patterns as it does with transportation infrastructure. However, they hope to gradually improve their metrics and track changes over time to allow for a better understanding of the impacts of transportation investments and changes in land use. They are also seeking partners to contribute to a pooled fund so that they can measure multimodal accessibility across entire states on a regular basis.

Chris McCahill is a Senior Associate at SSTI.