The Daily Need

New study shows disconnect between mass transit and jobs

A new study out from the Brookings Institute found that nearly 70 percent of people living in or around America’s cities (“metro residents” is what Brookings calls them) live in neighborhoods with access to transit services like buses and trains.  Yet only about 30 percent of the jobs in America’s metro regions can be gotten to by hopping on one of those buses or trains.  This disconnect is described in “Missed Opportunity: Transit and Jobs in Metropolitan America.” Brookings ranks the best and worst cities for getting to work without a car (see how your city ranks here. Contrary to what you might think, New York doesn’t even rank among the top 10 best commuting cities. It’s 13th, lagging behind some transit-friendly surprises like Las Vegas (#8) and Fresno, Calif. (#5). Honolulu comes out on top, with 60 percent of metro residents within a 90-minute transit ride from their jobs.

As gas prices go up and job creation seems to be stuck in neutral, the report raises important questions about how to grow urban centers.  “It’s not enough to create more and better jobs if workers can’t get to them,” said Bruce Katz, who leads the Metropolitan Policy Program at Brookings.  For nearly two years, PBS’s Blueprint America has been reporting on the state of America’s transportation system. The Brookings report got us wondering what you think about the nation’s transportation system.  Does mass transit take you to work? Would you like it to?  Let us know.

 
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Comments

  • Guest

    Yes, mass transit takes me to work (and back home) every day. I’m blessed.  Once upon a time, my government had the good sense to do think about the future — rail lines were laid, bus lanes were carved out, and walkable sidewalks were preserved. My life (and that of my neighbors) is a lot better because of it. 

  • jan

    90 minute transit ride?  Is that one way or round trip?  Whether its an hour and a half round trip or 3 hours round trip, that’s still a lot of time taken away from family, home, and normal every day life.  Has anyone thought this through? 

  • Mfheubeck

    The properties that cost the most are always near the public transit.  Thus, I can’t afford to live near the public transport and  thus I spend more on gas, upkeep of a car, etc.  One of my well off friends said, we should tax the hell out of gas so people would drive less.  What they didn’t consider was it would hurt the people who are already struggling and can’t afford to live closer to where they work.  I would love to take public transport but there isn’t any. 

  • Vickihlldy

    I only commute once per week but it is two hours each way on a train.  It is expensive, the cars are old and smelly but it arrives on time as opposed to driving.  That more tracks and cars are not upgraded is baffling.  Many more would use mass transit were it more available. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=766203958 Aaron W. Fowler

     90 minutes is not a long commute depending on the city you live in and when you consider that is time you can use as opposed to time sitting watching traffic; you are right it is something to think about!

  • Tony

    I live in university community. I commute 50 minutes (including one transfer) each way to my non-university job. If I drove, my commute would be 12 minutes each way. Most of the buses are designed to serve the university campus and travel east-west.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=894350152 John Abbott

     I would like to first get a job and then decide which option would be better, though in an ideal world I’d prefer a mass transit commute of an hour or less.

  • Somarstatic

    I take a via everyday to work. It’s not a bad ride, we have a nice little family of riders everyday. Our drivers are nice friendly and most inportantly take their schedule seriously. I live in Baltimore, and you hear many horror atories, but I love my commute!

  • Raven

    “Gotten to” I would advise learning to write prior to producing a piece for the public.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mscottexas Scott Campbell

     I could do it and have in the past but new routes have doubled my transfers and commute time so I drive. There is no way to make it work for everyone. 

  • Bill Nichols

    Local transit authority, NFTA, has cut services to nothing including has cut Para Transit Services. Western New York is a very economicallly depressed climate. People who need the services are the most hurt. In addition, NFTA received 179 million, from the state and 20 million from Erie county to provide services and NFTA took the money and ran. 
    Bill Nichols, NT NY  

  • Deepak

    I live near public transit and would take 50 mins door-to-door.  Yet I drive to save 20 mins.  There are many factors why people choose to drive.  Here are top three for me: 

    1) Price – The price has to justify dealing with public transit, given delays and rude people (in conjunction with days with bad weather).  With my Toyota Prius (50+ MPG), it’s cheaper to drive especially now with oil prices.

    2) Convenience – Most Americans are lazy (have you looked at our bellies lately?)  We want the easy way, especially if we can afford it.  And it doesn’t require daily planning (to and from pubic transit stations).

    3) Flexibility – Having a car just means you can so much more to/from work. I even use it for lunch errands.  Many have kids, and need that assurance we can reach our children in emergencies and willing to pay more.

  • Nick Knight

     I have a train near my house going to the city.  But with parking, and tickets, it is way way more expensive to utilize.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1403649397 Shauna Woodard

    I want to take public transit to work.  But my drive is less than 30 minutes and mass transit would take 90 minutes.  I have to punch a time clock so every minute counts for me.   I just can’t do it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=9637079 Tim Bradford

     I took a job that is close enough to my house that I could ride a bike to work although I do sometimes take the bus when the weather is bad.  I live in a suburban town and wish that there was regular transit to the city which would allow me to pursue more jobs that are in my field and that offer better pay. Oklahoma City is really spread out and the transit system is really bad. Even the transit system in Norman Oklahoma leaves a lot to be desired if you do not work at the university. I like that this study is being done because I have always felt that public transit is a great way to make communities more cohesive and it is much safer than having everyone is cars. 

  • Miss Julie

    Wow, Raven, you must really feel smart: You found some inelegant prose and got all smug pointing it out. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/happycow1 Liliana Vasquez-Duran

     I ditch my car around 2006 when I found myself overweight and needing an overhaul in the general direction of my life. I sold my heap and bought myself a bike and began a 10 mile to and from work ride. Been doing it ever since and dropped 45lbs in the process. Now I live closer to Los Angeles Downtown area where I have 3 bus lines that run 24 hours a day and 10 lines that run as late as 12 midnight including a short walk to the subway. Yes Los Angeles has a subway albeit nothing like San Francisco or New york but there is a growing push to build more trains. Why people don’t encourage the use of Mass transit is beyond me it gets you closer to your community and helps in the pocket book tremendously. I suspect as Oil goes up more and more people will rethink and push to develop better mass transit. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/happycow1 Liliana Vasquez-Duran

    Well then this is when the idea of A Govt for the people by the people is a perfect example. If you wish to have better Mass transit push for it. Organize neighborhs in your community so that the city you live in can begin to rethink its efforts. If you don’t cry nobody will know you are hungry. 

  • D Henderson

     this used to be called editing.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1005076852 Sheva Bree

    There is no mass transit options where we currently live.  There is a small bus service in the county but its mainly for the disabled and you have to call 1 to 2 days prior to when you will need the service in order to get picked up.  I have used mass transit to get to work before when I did not have a car for a while.  But leaving the house at 5am to get to work by 7am got tiring fast.  The bus/train/train/bus routine was exhausting.  When you added an 8+ hour work day and I was gone from my family for 12 or more hours a day when they needed me the most.  I was so much happier to get a car again.  It got me home to my family faster and at least with one job enabled me to work more hours when they needed me to come in and cover someone elses shift since it was hard to get up and get to work last minute when you have a 90+ minute commute.  At least in Atlanta it seems when people need mass transit the most and they should be increasing the bus routes and thinking about more trains they are cutting back.  We even have counties outside the metro area cutting out their bus services completely.  You want more people to ride mass transit?  Make it fast and convinent with  more routes not less.

  • Kel

    Where I live (Fresno, CA) if a potential employer knows you ride the bus, they don’t want to hire you! – And honestly, I don’t blame them, the bus system here is horrible. I am grateful there is one at all, but all lines seem to stop by 9pm, the weekend schedule is cut in half, and a good portion of the time the busses are late/early making connections impossible to plan. 

  • Rachel

    Before I moved to a very rural area, I looked into taking the bus to work.  It would have taken me 50 minutes to get to a location 15 miles away.  Obviously, I chose to drive to work.  Columbus, Ohio doesn’t have much of a transit system unless you live and work downtown.   

  • Bill Nichols

    In Western New York, we have tried to communicate with the loaol transit athority.  They are inaccessible., Then, like a sharp stick to the eye, same transit authority schedules “public meetings” to discuss the issue.  Needless to say, the meetings are scheduled in areas not served by transit, often in buildings that are not handicap accessible.  

  • emily

    Same as some of the other folks: takes up to 90 minutes to take the bus to work from home, which includes 3 buses. I live in a city, but have to commute to a suburb.

    Driving a car takes less than half of that (15-45 minutes based on time, traffic, etc), and I commute together with my husband. Even though we both have free bus passes through work, I have free parking at my job. We use the bus passes on the weekends/evenings, for taking trips around the city. If our workplaces were downtown, it would take 20 minutes on one bus.

  • emily

    Same as some of the other folks: takes up to 90 minutes to take the bus to work from home, which includes 3 buses. I live in a city, but have to commute to a suburb.

    Driving a car takes less than half of that (15-45 minutes based on time, traffic, etc), and I commute together with my husband. Even though we both have free bus passes through work, I have free parking at my job. We use the bus passes on the weekends/evenings, for taking trips around the city. If our workplaces were downtown, it would take 20 minutes on one bus.

  • Stephen

     I am (very very very) fortunate to live close to where I work.  I drive.  I would prefer to ride my bicycle, but the roads are too dangerous.  I live in a very bicycle-friendly county, but my route simply has no bike lanes, and there have been many cyclists injured and killed.  

    My son (who lives in another city) used to drive, but he fell asleep during his drive and totaled his car. Now he takes the train, which is more expensive overall. About the same time, 2 hours.  That is each way. Not much time for the rest of his life, right?  

    Trying to solve this problem with giving everyone a car, and building enough highways, and sucking enough oil out of the ground to fuel all those cars, has proven pretty futile.

    Public transportation has its own problems.

    Why not make changes to enable people to live closer to their jobs?

    And then again – wow. . . we have this cool thing called an “Internet” – and for many people, if not working from home a few days a week, how about establishing small remote offices?  Right now, for my employer, I am working three projects.  My manager is 250 miles away. My teams and clients for each project, are all in three separate cities.  I have not boarded a plane for work in almost two years.  We conference-call, and use network tools to communicate.  For some lines of work, this is a much better solution.

    Another possible solution is: more affordable housing.  All we need to do, really, is to change our laws to stop giving the same tax (and easy-credit) benefits and subsidies for vacation and second homes, and commercial/investment properties, that we do for first-homes.  House/property values will plummet, of course.  To their ACTUAL market values, not their government-subsidized, artificially-inflated values that they are at right now.  Then, people will be able to afford homes closer to where they work.  When they change jobs, they will be able to move more readily.  Zoning laws could also change to permit companies to more easily establish small satellite or remote offices to allow small teams to work remotely, where management is essential.

    The Banking/Financial industry, of course, would not like to lose this subsidy.  And the Transportation industry (and infrastructure construction) would suffer, as the demand for cars and public transportation lessens somewhat. (I don’t think that demand would suffer as much as growth would taper; while dense urban private homes would boom).

    Another thing very close to the root of all this is availability of jobs.  My son commutes 2 hours, because he can’t find a job closer to where he lives, and he won’t move closer to where he works because he is worried his company will close, and because his wife is going to school, and needs to be close to the school to accommodate the class schedule.  This is also really a banking and finance problem, because capital is being hoarded in investing in commodities and financial instruments right now, rather than business and productivity.  There’s an obvious solution to that.

  • Stephen

     I am (very very very) fortunate to live close to where I work.  I drive.  I would prefer to ride my bicycle, but the roads are too dangerous.  I live in a very bicycle-friendly county, but my route simply has no bike lanes, and there have been many cyclists injured and killed.  

    My son (who lives in another city) used to drive, but he fell asleep during his drive and totaled his car. Now he takes the train, which is more expensive overall. About the same time, 2 hours.  That is each way. Not much time for the rest of his life, right?  

    Trying to solve this problem with giving everyone a car, and building enough highways, and sucking enough oil out of the ground to fuel all those cars, has proven pretty futile.

    Public transportation has its own problems.

    Why not make changes to enable people to live closer to their jobs?

    And then again – wow. . . we have this cool thing called an “Internet” – and for many people, if not working from home a few days a week, how about establishing small remote offices?  Right now, for my employer, I am working three projects.  My manager is 250 miles away. My teams and clients for each project, are all in three separate cities.  I have not boarded a plane for work in almost two years.  We conference-call, and use network tools to communicate.  For some lines of work, this is a much better solution.

    Another possible solution is: more affordable housing.  All we need to do, really, is to change our laws to stop giving the same tax (and easy-credit) benefits and subsidies for vacation and second homes, and commercial/investment properties, that we do for first-homes.  House/property values will plummet, of course.  To their ACTUAL market values, not their government-subsidized, artificially-inflated values that they are at right now.  Then, people will be able to afford homes closer to where they work.  When they change jobs, they will be able to move more readily.  Zoning laws could also change to permit companies to more easily establish small satellite or remote offices to allow small teams to work remotely, where management is essential.

    The Banking/Financial industry, of course, would not like to lose this subsidy.  And the Transportation industry (and infrastructure construction) would suffer, as the demand for cars and public transportation lessens somewhat. (I don’t think that demand would suffer as much as growth would taper; while dense urban private homes would boom).

    Another thing very close to the root of all this is availability of jobs.  My son commutes 2 hours, because he can’t find a job closer to where he lives, and he won’t move closer to where he works because he is worried his company will close, and because his wife is going to school, and needs to be close to the school to accommodate the class schedule.  This is also really a banking and finance problem, because capital is being hoarded in investing in commodities and financial instruments right now, rather than business and productivity.  There’s an obvious solution to that.

  • Hughesk

    Dear Raven, 
    Thank you for pointing out the  grammatical error in my post. As someone who has been writing for the public for more than 20 years, it’s always embarrassing to slip up.  I will be sure to file a correction the morning. Sincerely,
     Kathy Hughes, executive producer, Blueprint America.

  • rachiti

    It’s not just about ability to get to jobs in terms of location…it’s also about TIMING.  In Oshkosh, WI buses stop in front of Wal-Mart, where I work; however, the bus system only runs first shift, 6 days a week.  I can take the bus to work but in order to get home I would have to pay $15 for a taxi most days.  On Sundays the buses do not run at all so that would be $30.  My shifts are sometimes only 4 hours and begin as late as 7PM.  On these occasions, the cost to take the taxi to and from work is over 75% of what I earn for the entire shift!!!  One day next week I have a one hour shift (mandatory meeting) scheduled after the buses finish running so I make less than $10 but have to pay $30 for the taxi!  A family member is letting me live at a house they own and only pay utilities because I don’t make enough to pay rent and bills accrued while in school 2 years ago so I can’t move closer.  There aren’t any 1st shift openings in jobs I can do with my partial disability, so when my car finally stops working (mechanics have already written it off as a total loss), I will forced to quit and apply for welfare.  ALL because the city considers second & third shift workers inferior.

  • Francis from Australia

    Newcastle, Australia, is grappling with the same problem. Reasons cited for not using public transport include infrequent services, perceived insecurity in the evening, and too many transfers to reach the destination. So the solutions will include 15-minute intervals between bus and train services, limited-stop services that run very close to the start and end points of more of the common journeys, and more attention to clean and safe vehicles. Time will tell whether these issues will be addressed, but they will undoubtedly improve patronage when they are.

  • Carl Axness

    Love your show, watch it on Fridays on KNME. I lived in Spain (Barcelona, Valencia, and Alicante), 6 years and never had a driver’s license there because, generally, in europe, it is much easier and faster to use mass transit than to drive and try and find a parking place. Of course cities in europe are compact and most of the time my wife and I could walk to do errands. Coming back to the US, I located in Rio Rancho, NM about an hours drive my workplace in Albuquerque. I almost always drive to the nearest busstop/park&ride and commute, which takes maybe 15 minutes longer each way than if I were to drive. Having commuted for 4 years now, I must admit I hate having to drive to work, which is occasionally necessary. I get a lot done on the bus, editing papers, crosswords puzzles and reading, and I don’t even notice if we are in a traffice jam. The Albuquerque metro area is doing a great job with its bus service and in connecting Santa Fe to the north and Los Lunas to the south with rail service (the railrunner). The commuter route I take runs about 5 buses morning spaced about 20 minutes apart and 5 evening buses. I believe they all run failrly full (at least all the ones I take). Many of the riders are health care providers at the VA hospital. The hospital pays for monthly bus tickets for their employees which appears to help them keep a steady workforce. My employer pays for about 25% of my ticket to encourage energy conservation. ABQ ride has been doing a great job. Some of the principle line use a rapid-ride system in which the bus stops only at principle stops and their are some buses that provide free wifi. They also provide commuters with a guaranteed ride home card for emergencies (illness) or in case of a last bus non-arrival that one can call for a personalized transport to your park and ride or home. I have never had to use it.