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Looking at ‘Pockets’ of Transit Accessibility


with Louis Liss

After nearly two years of compiling and analyzing transit data from across the country, our recent paper, Missed Opportunity: Transit and Jobs in Metropolitan America, analyzes how many jobs are accessible by public transportation--be it bus, train, boat, funicular, anything--in ninety minutes. This uses real schedule data from agencies across the country, and we created some really fascinating maps that show data down to the neighborhood level.

Chances are, if you live in America, you probably live in one of the one hundred largest metro areas, and you can look up your own area through the web tool we created and see how it does in comparison with the rest of the city. What you find may surprise you. We’re planning on highlighting a few of the surprises today and after Memorial Day.

For one, if you look at a “pocket” of higher transit access outside of where a lot of service is expected like a downtown, then it’s likely that there is a commuter rail or bus hub where a lot of service is concentrated. The more frequent the service and the higher the number of routes that connect to the hub, the better the access looks. A lot of this is common in the New York metro area, especially on Long Island where bus and commuter rail service is clustered to create many of these kinds of pockets. However, it doesn’t necessarily take rail to create a pocket of good transit. Metro Minneapolis has a system that includes transit centers where several bus routes connect, and nearby neighborhoods often get increased access because of it.

Focusing in on these pockets could be a positive step for going through with some of the recommendations that Missed Opportunity makes regarding collaboration between local, metro, state, and federal level authorities to make sure that not only housing but also jobs go where transit service is already concentrated. This could also show urban planners a way to evaluate just what services are doing a good job connecting people to jobs.

Next, we’ll look at the opposite situation, islands of transit isolation.