To cut automobile travel, locate jobs near transit

By Chris McCahill

When people live and work near transit stations, transportation service providers have a much easier job of providing essential first- and last-mile connections. While both ends of the trip matter, the location of jobs may be more important to consider in cutting automobile travel, according to researchers at the University of Denver. Moreover, locating both homes and jobs near transit stations can drastically reduce automobile use, even for travel unrelated to work.

Using data from a Denver-area travel survey conducted from 2009 to 2010, the researchers studied differences in travel behavior depending on where people lived and worked in relation to their nearest light-rail station. No matter what distance the researchers used—1 mile, 1/2 mile, or a 15-minute walk—those who worked near transit were less likely to commute by car than those who lived near transit. At the 15-minute threshold, 74% of nearby residents drove to work, compared to 62% of nearby workers. Of those who both lived and worked within that threshold, only 38 percent drove to work.

The researchers also observed differences in personal trip-making among those who drove to work and those who did not. For example, those who traveled to work by non-car modes also generated more trips for personal travel. However, more than half of those trips were made by walking, biking, or transit. While non-car commuters sometimes traveled longer distances for personal trips than car commuters, none traveled longer distances by automobile.

Chris McCahill is a Senior Associate at SSTI.