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Where the Jobs Are: Employer Access to Labor by Transit – 2012


The nation’s average distance to work increased by over three miles from 1983 to 2009, and individual drivers topped 74 percent of all commuters with the average number of hours wasted in traffic increasing from 14 hours in 1982 to 34 hours in 2010. Beyond this increase in distance and commute times for individuals with a personal vehicle, there are still those commuting these longer commute times without a vehicle. The Brookings Institute conducted this study in order to determine the efficiency, quality, and cost of public transportation networks in metropolitan areas that partially determine access to jobs.

Key Points

This study analyzed data from 371 transit providers in the nation’s 100 largest metropolitan areas to determine public transportation needs, challenges and improvements in order to uncover how transit systems can efficiently and equitably connect jobs to the broadest possible labor pool. In the 100 largest metropolitan areas, a majority of jobs are based in neighborhoods with transit service; however, the typical job is accessible to only 27 percent of the metropolitan workforce in less than 90 minutes.

Other study findings include:

  1. Improving transit in metropolitan areas could be as simple as running more buses and trains; however, public funding limits the ability to expand their service.
  2. Since 2010, almost 80 percent of transit agencies have cut services, raised fairs, or considered either action because of increased gas prices and revenue shortfalls, not because of changes in ridership.
  3. Combining demographic and transportation data will enable employers to determine the most accessible locations throughout a metro area.

How to Use

While increasing jobs has been a huge push during the recession, it is also important to consider the need for accessible jobs. Local officials and planners in metropolitan areas that are considering or should be considering redesigning transit service areas to more accurately reflect their metropolitan economies can use the data uncovered in this study. Additionally, while this data is not specifically focused on the aging American demographic and their transportation needs, the workforce is aging and it is important to consider the implications that lack of transportation options to and from work has on this aging population that tends to need public transit for often, as well as easier and safer access to this transit.

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