Connecting transit to jobs and workers in America

The Brookings Institution last week released its latest study of transit’s ability in the U.S. to get people to their jobs. The good news is that the Los Angeles metro area ranked first in the number of jobs near transit.

The region, on the other hand, ranked 42nd in the country in terms of workers’ ability to reach their jobs via transit in 90 minutes. The numbers suggest the challenge in the L.A. region is that many people’s residences are either far from frequent transit or from their jobs, or both. No surprise there.

From the study summary:

The typical job is accessible to only about 27 percent of its metropolitan workforce by transit in 90 minutes or less. Labor access varies considerably from a high of 64 percent in metropolitan Salt Lake City to a low of 6 percent in metropolitan Palm Bay, reflecting differences in both transit provision, job concentration, and land use patterns. City jobs are consistently accessible to larger shares of metropolitan labor pools than suburban jobs, reinforcing cities’ geographic advantage relative to transit routing.

Again, I’m not sure that’s a shocking conclusion. The hope is that it resonates with both those who make land-use policy and, equally important, the firms that have the freedom to choose where they locate. Yes, there may be cheap land and real estate in the distant ‘burbs, but the Brookings study suggests that comes with a price — lack of access to a good chunk of the workforce.

7 replies

  1. “The hope is that it resonates with both those who make land-use policy and, equally important, the firms that have the freedom to choose where they locate. Yes, there may be cheap land and real estate in the distant ‘burbs, but the Brookings study suggests that comes with a price — lack of access to a good chunk of the workforce.”

    Or have transit agencies plan a transit system that fits to such needs.

    Putting the blame to the one side is half the answer; part of the blame also lies in Metro which pretty much focused their attention to connecting the suburbs into Downtown LA while neglecting the transit pattern needs of the region as a whole.

    People also work at Ralphs, Vons, and Albertsons. They work at Rite Aid and CVS. They work at Coffee Beans and Starbucks. Wal-Mart, Costco, Target, Home Depot and Best Buy are also places of work. People work at McDonald’s, Taco Bell, and Carl’s Jr. People work at shopping malls all over the city. Majority of the people that work here live near as well. They don’t see the benefit of paying $900/yr in monthly passes when it’s cheaper for them to drive, motorcycle, scooter, bicycle or walk.

    We have researchers and scientists working at JPL in Pasadena, we have students faculty members at schools and university campuses throughout the Southland. People work at Toyota and Honda headquarters in Torrance. People work at the docks of San Pedro and Long Beach. We have ramp workers and aircraft maintenance personnel working at LAX. Majority of these people also live near their places of work. They too see little benefit of using slow, inefficient, and expensive public transit when they can just drive, motorcycle, scooter, bicycle or walk.

    All of these jobs are located all over the region and Metro does not do a good job in providing inexpensive commuting needs to these jobs. From their view, “public transit isn’t really worth it for the short distance I have to use it for so it’s still better for me to drive.”

  2. I think that Metro should take this report to heart to improve transit access to jobs. For example, Metro does a good job to link that Line 741 throughout the CSUN campus. But the line fails to link to the Northridge Metrolink Station.

    I hope that we the Purple Line reaches Century City, Metro and other local transit providers will establish a transit hub in the area so that more people can take transit to their jobs and to the Purple Line Station.

  3. I was one of the hundreds of thousands of people who lived near transit, and never used it. Five years ago, I saw the light. I parked my car, saved gas, and wear and tear on my vehicle, and started taking the bus, and train to work. I strongly disagree with the above comments on Metro pricing,its somewhat pricey, but you save more money overall.My wife and kids also have started using public transportation, and if we can do it, any family can. I am tired of LA Metro being criticized up and down for everthing they do. Come on people, lighten up, relax a bit. We have a great transit system in L.A, instead of complaining about every little thing, why dont you buy a montly pass, and try the system?. It may not be perfect, nothing is, but I do think it will open your eyes to what a good system we have.

  4. “why dont you buy a montly pass, and try the system?. It may not be perfect, nothing is, but I do think it will open your eyes to what a good system we have.”

    I’d have to disagree.

    As a motorcycle rider course instructor, the first thing I ask my students is “what made you decide that you want to learn a motorcycle?”

    In the past the answers have been “It’s fun,” “it’s interesting,” or “I want to travel across America on a Harley.”

    Nowdays though, the answers have been “alternative to the car” “saving gas” “alternative to public transit” and “commuting.”

    I’ve been getting that more ans as the primary reason why people want to learn how to ride motorcycles and scooters these days. There’s a big change happening here and it seems that the American’s love for cars is indeed coming to an end. At the same though, it doesn’t seem the American love for public transit is increasing either.

    What struck me the most was the “alternative to public transit.” When I asked some of the people who said that, their answers were all the same: “it’s not cheap.” Depending how one uses it for their needs, public transit isn’t worth the price of paying $75 a month. I mean, if your place of residence and your workplace is only five miles away, is it really worth it to pay for $75 monthly pass?

    An increasing number of Angelinos seem to be coming to that conclusion: high cost of gas isn’t worth driving a car for commuting, they can’t afford the high cost of electric or hybrid cars, public transit isn’t worth paying for certain short distances, the natural conclusion they end up with is motorcycle.

  5. “The last mile is far more important than the first mile. People will find a way to the station if they don’t have to transfer to get to their destination.”

    If it’s going to take me 15 minutes to get to the nearest bus stop or train station, I might as well hop on a motorcycle and get going.

  6. @Ivan: Line 741 doesn’t need to go to the Northridge Metrolink Station in order to connect CSUN because the University itself runs a shuttle between the campus’ transit center and the train station. One of the realities of public transit service is that when you try to modify a line to do “everything” you end up with a line that takes too long to get “anywhere” and that, more than anything else, will drive passengers away.

    Besides, DASH does an adequate job of connecting Metrolink to Northridge Fashion Center and to Metro service on major arterial streets such as Reseda Blvd., Sherman Way, Roscoe Blvd., Tampa Ave. and Nordhoff St.

    Just because a line does not do everything YOU think it should does not make it deficient.