Access to jobs by transit is on the rise

By Chris McCahill

In most large metropolitan areas, the typical worker could reach more jobs by transit in 2016 than in 2015, according to the newest Access Across America report from the University of Minnesota’s Accessibility Observatory. Accessibility increased in 36 out of 49 regions. The largest increases (roughly 11 percent) were in Cincinnati, Charlotte, Orlando, Seattle, and Providence. The largest decreases were in Kansas City (-11.3 percent), Pittsburgh (-5.2 percent), and Richmond (-4.3 percent).

For the report, accessibility is measured as the number of jobs reachable within certain travel time thresholds (or “donuts”), including the time needed to walk to and from stations, for every census block in the U.S. during the 7:00 to 9:00 AM commute period. Jobs are weighted depending on which donut they fall within—i.e., 5-minutes, 10-minutes, and so on, up to an hour.

New and improved transit service can explain some of the accessibility increases, but changes in the number of jobs or the distribution of jobs and workers across the region also play a role. One caveat for this newest report is that the most recent jobs data was from 2014. The previous report used 2013 data.

These annual reports let individual regions track changes in accessibility over time, scan for accessibility issues within the region, and compare their own performance to other regions. Agencies interested in being more proactive, however, can formally incorporate accessibility metrics into their project evaluation processes, as Virginia has done, and measure the impacts of individual projects as they make decisions about how to invest in their systems. A recent SSTI Webinar provides more information on incorporating accessibility metrics into decision making.

Chris McCahill is an Associate Researcher at SSTI.