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Access Across America

Clean Transport

Easiest & Toughest Cities To Find A Bus To Work

A recent study by Andrew Owen and David Levinson for Access Across America examined accessible transportation to a valued destination. In other words, it shows what cities are best and worse to catch a bus taking us to the essential places we need to go — particularly, work. The study measures things such as the ease in which one reaches a valued destination.

46 of the 50 largest (by population) metropolitan areas in the United States were visually reproduced with the analysis to focus on job accessibility via transit. “It is the most detailed evaluation to date of access to jobs by transit, and it allows for a direct comparison of the transit accessibility performance of America’s largest metropolitan areas,” Access Across America writes. Angie Schmitt of Streetsblog calls it “the geography of opportunity.”

From Angie: “Levinson and Owen used transit schedules and walking routes to chart how many jobs are accessible in each region from a given point within a given amount of time. Adding Census data about where people reside, they were able to calculate the number of jobs the average worker in each region can reach via transit within 10-minute intervals. The rankings are based on those stats — the more jobs a typical resident can reach via transit in a short amount of time, the higher a region performed.”

Access Across America

“This map shows the number of jobs accessible by transit from a given point. Few parts of Atlanta have good transit accessibility compared to the nation’s top performing cities,” Angie writes. The map comes from the University of Minnesota.

The top 10 cities for job accessibility by transit, according to Owen and Levinson, are:

1. New York City
2. San Francisco
3. Los Angeles
4. Washington
5. Chicago
6. Boston
7. Philadelphia
8. Seattle
9. Denver
10. San Jose

The Southeast has too much sprawl, as I think we all knew, and this sprawl is found in many of the most problematic urban areas. The Southeast is weak in transit systems, in general, as well. The 10 worse cities, in descending order, are: Kansas City, Indianapolis, Austin, Raleigh, Cincinnati, Orlando, Nashville, Virginia Beach, Riverside, and Birmingham.

Schmitt points out a discouraging note: “It should be noted that even in cities at the top of this ranking, transit access to jobs remains poor for many people. For the average Chicago resident, for example, a meager 7.3 percent of jobs are accessible within a 60-minute transit trip. That only looks good in comparison to cities like bottom-of-the-pack Birmingham, Alabama, where the same figure is just 3.3 percent.”


The number of jobs an average worker in the Charlotte region can get to via transit. Credit: University of Minnesota


Job accessibility by transit in Chicago. Credit: University of Minnesota


Future studies will be published periodically exploring more detailed aspects of the data collected in this study. Accessibility of jobs with different wage levels will be a new aspect. Also, future studies will include a comparison with the accessibility by car.

More information from Access Across America:

Accessibility maps for all 46 cities
News release
Full report (5.2 MB PDF)
Methodology report (3.1 MBPDF)
More about the Access Across America series

The problem of getting to work in sprawling areas such as the Southeast coupled with the lack of adequate transit systems is a major concern. Many people admit they would use mass transit if it were readily available and convenient. Instead, sprawl and inefficient use of the automobile is “the only way.”

Mobility is about equality and equity. With urban mass transit not reaching far enough into sprawl, it seems we are too limited in regards to availability of decent transit in too many situations. Perhaps studies such as this will focus more attention on the infrastructure needs of our largest metropolitan areas.

Related Stories:

Californians Walking, Bicycling, & Using Mass Transit Have Doubled Since 2000

Public Transportation & Mass Transit Are Keys To Smart Cities

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Written By

Cynthia Shahan started writing after previously doing research and publishing work on natural birth practices. (Several unrelated publications) She is a licensed health care provider. She studied and practiced both Waldorf education, and Montessori education, mother of four unconditionally loving spirits.


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