“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.

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