“Opportunity Score” Shows Best Places to Find a Job Without Owning a Car

This screenshot shows how many jobs are available near the author's house. Addresses at more than 350 cities are searchable and ranked by jobs within a half-hour's trip by walking or transit. Image: Redfin/Opportunity Score
The 30-minute transit shed near the author’s house, overlaid with a heatmap of jobs paying $40,000 or more. Image: Redfin/Opportunity Score

Which places put economic opportunity within reach for residents who don’t own cars?

There’s a new tool to evaluate housing locations according to the accessibility of jobs via transit and walking. Redfin, the company that runs Walk Score, today released “Opportunity Score,” which ranks millions of addresses across 350 cities based on the number of jobs within a 30-minute walk or transit ride.

The above map shows the results of a search near my home in Cleveland. My neighborhood grades out as a “job-seeker’s paradise,” according to Opportunity Score, with 64,000 jobs paying more than $40,000 within a half hour car-free commute. Compare that to the cul-de-sac where I grew up in Hilliard, Ohio — which has an Opportunity Score of 1.

Redfin created the tool in partnership with the White House’s Opportunity Project, which seeks to address inequality “by putting data and digital tools in the hands of families, communities, and local leaders.” Opportunity Score combines jobs data from the feds with Redfin’s software measuring transit and walking travel times. The tool also factors in population, otherwise the biggest cities would all rise to the top (here’s the formula).

Redfin ranked 50 major American cities according to Opportunity Score, and the result was a top ten list with some surprises:

  1. San Jose (70)
  2. Milwaukee (63)
  3. Albuquerque (59)
  4. Providence (58)
  5. Washington, D.C. (51)
  6. Salt Lake City (51)
  7. Portland (51)
  8. Honolulu (50)
  9. San Francisco (47)
  10. Buffalo (47)
Jan Jose and Milwaukee had the highest overall "Opportunity Scores," reflecting the number of jobs available within a 30-minute, car-free commute. Image: Redfin
San Jose and Milwaukee rated highest among 50 American cities for job accessibility within a 30-minute, car-free commute. Image: Redfin

At the other end of the spectrum are these ten cities:

  1. St. Louis (22)
  2. Bridgeport, Conn. (7)
  3. Atlanta (10)
  4. Oklahoma City (12)
  5. Birmingham (16)
  6. Houston (16)
  7. Riverside/San Bernardino (18)
  8. Nashville (22)
  9. Miami (6)
  10. Detroit (3)
The worst-performing cities. Image: Redfin
When it comes to transit access to jobs, Miami and Detroit rate at the bottom of the pile. Image: Redfin

Policy makers are increasingly aware of how physical geography, land use patterns, and transportation networks can affect poverty, inequality, and economic mobility. Redfin sees Opportunity Score as a useful tool for planners, researchers, and civic leaders grappling looking to improve economic fairness, as well as a helpful reference for people looking for a new place to live.

  • Dan Majewski

    As someone who lives in Albuquerque and as usually happens with these broad and shallow tools, this just doesn’t make sense. Regarding transit, it looks like they overlaid a map of transit routes without taking frequency into account. When they say “30 minutes by transit”, they can’t possibly be accounting for the fact that most bus lines here only run every 30 minutes and most of them are less frequent than that.

  • mfs

    the measure is definitely biased towards A) smaller metro areas B) less frequent, but wide bus networks C) dense commercial and D) less dense housing. and the 30 m cutoff is pretty arbitrary with no “shoulder” to weight the jobs that are 31m or 32m away a little less. this measure aligns strongly with the WalkUPs analysis that was published by Smart Growth America which shows the top cities on the list having a high % of jobs in walkable communities, but it doesn’t line up with the SGA analysis in the emphasis on dense residential areas.

  • thielges

    The rankings don’t jibe with the actual drive vs. walk/transit behavior. For example San Jose ranks as #1 and quite far ahead of San Francisco. Yet San Jose’s walk/transit to work mode share is far below San Francisco’s. This could be due to the fact that San Jose’s bus network is mostly a lifeline for those who have no car or cannot drive. Buses are slow and infrequent, a typical journey across town requires 2 hours. Driving takes less than 30 minutes.

  • Joe Brant

    Anyone having trouble getting the colors to show on Chrome?

  • KJ

    However, this does show the potential for bus service/transit within San Jose with greater frequency and Bus Rapid Transit (which San Jose is trying to implement).

  • neroden

    This makes sense; the top list is a mix of *very rich* cities with lots of high-priced jobs, and older cities with extremely good walkability. The bottom ten list is sprawlsville — plus, for some reason, Bridgeport. (What’s wrong with Bridgeport?)

  • Wale Lola

    hi name is wale am a black america am a from new york, i finish school 2014 since then i have been trying to get a job but with my certificate i could not get a job, you know how it is for black people out here so i went online seeking for a job online then i came across doctor john post about casting spells for job seekers that how my life of not getting a job for so long chance……. i got in touch with him on his email… i explain to him about my condition of not getting a job he then cast a spell and gave me a potion to take with out know side effect…….. within two day all the job i have applied for they all kept on calling me for an interview….. right now am working in a big company and well paid, now i can live happily with my family no worries….. what is a man with out know money hun? you can get him here: doctorjonh697@gmail.com………….

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