The Transit Disconnect Between Jobs and Workers

Dave Garlock, Communications Intern
Fri, 07/13/2012 (All day)

Most jobs are located near transit, but most people can't easily take transit to those jobs. This is the finding of a new Brookings Institution study of the U.S.'s 100 largest metro regions.

More than three quarters of jobs are in neighborhoods served by transit, but only 27% of the workforce can get to those jobs via mass transit within 90 minutes.

This disconnect between jobs and workers is a serious problem, both for the workers who can't reach  jobs, and for employers, who are hurt if their available labor pool is shrunk by people not being able to reach them.  It means that many people don't have a choice but to drive to jobs, but not everyone has a car, or wants to commute by one.

One reason for the low number of people who can reach jobs by transit, and a challenge in changing this number, is the fact that both jobs and people have spread to the suburbs.  Adie Tomer, the author of the report, writes,

The suburbanization of jobs obstructs transit’s ability to connect workers to opportunity and jobs to local labor pools. Fortunately, some metro areas exhibit near ubiquitous transit coverage rates and enable their jobs to access over half of their local labor pools, proving that expanded transit networks and integrated land use decisions can improve transit’s utility to employers. As metro leaders continue to grapple with limited financial resources, it is critical for transit investment decisions to simultaneously address suburban coverage gaps as well as disconnected neighborhoods.

The Portland-Vancouver-Beaverton metro region, the only one in Oregon's included in the study, does better than the national average, with 88.7% of the jobs reachable by transit, and 38.4% of the workforce able to access jobs by transit within 90 minutes.  However, in the suburbs, only 23.9% of people can reach jobs within 90 minutes.

There is much work to be done in the Portland region, and in Oregon's other communities, to make jobs accessible via transit.  One important way to do this is to have people live in places where jobs are, and where they have access to public transit.  Another is to have the jobs be in more accessible places.  Tomer writes, “One method to address the discrepancy between city and suburban labor access is for employers to locate in more transit-friendly suburban locations.”

1000 Friends of Oregon believes that good land use is an important way to create communities where people can walk to transit, and where jobs are located near where people live, both of which would increase people's access to jobs via transit.  You can learn more about how land use choices shape the way your community looks, lives and commutes at friends.org/LandUseIs.

You can read the full report here: Where the Jobs Are: Employer Access to Labor by Transit.