The Top 10 Regions Where Jobs Are Within Reach for Transit Riders

A map of transit accessibility for jobs in Austin, via University of Minnesota
A map of transit accessibility for jobs in Austin, via University of Minnesota

How easy is it to access jobs via transit? The answer says a lot about economic fairness in your region, and whether employment opportunities are fully available to people who can’t afford the expense of owning, maintaining, and fueling a car.

Researchers at the University of Minnesota have been working on measuring transit access to jobs as part of their broader “Access Across America” project, and they just came out with new rankings for 49 of the nation’s biggest metro regions.

Using detailed data on population, employment, and transit schedules, the rankings weigh how many jobs residents can typically access via bus or train in a given amount of time. The more jobs are within reach of more people in less time, the better a region’s rank will be.

Among the metro areas that provide the best job access by transit, there aren’t too many surprises.

Best job accessibility by transit (metro area)

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

The top 10 list is unchanged from the previous year, notes UMN in a press release. But there were some shifts. “In all, 36 of the 49 largest metros showed increases in job accessibility by transit.”

The list below shows the regions where transit access to jobs improved the most between 2015 and 2016. Only one of these cities — Seattle — has made notable changes in transit service, so the improvements are probably related to changes in the location of jobs or housing that made existing transit service a better fit for more commutes. It’s an important reminder that making transit service useful depends to a large extent on land use decisions.

Biggest improvement in accessibility

  1. Cincinnati (+ 11.23%)
  2. Charlotte (+ 11.02%)
  3. Orlando (+ 10.83%)
  4. Seattle (+ 10.80%)
  5. Providence (+ 10.65%)
  6. Phoenix (+ 7.51%)
  7. Riverside (+ 6.59%)
  8. Milwaukee (+ 6.53%)
  9. Hartford (+ 6.44%)
  10. New Orleans (+ 6.18%)

Check out the full report for detailed data about how your region performs.

More recommended today: Observational Epidemiology critiques media coverage of Elon Musk’s Hyperloop. And Seattle Met explains a proposal moving forward in Seattle for “sweeping” upzoning that would address the city’s housing shortage.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Perhaps 45 minutes would be a more fair measure.

    The thing is, lots of cities not on this list would probably rank pretty well in jobs accessible in 45 minutes by bicycle. Minneapolis-St. Paul and St. Louis for starters.

  • neroden

    Based on psych studies I’ve seen of this, 60 minutes is correct — it seems that people mentally allot one hour for getting to work and start considering moving house or changing jobs if it takes more than an hour. :shrug:

  • cjstephens

    Am I the only one to notice that this list matches nicely with the ten least affordable cities in the US?

  • Michael

    This is so questionable. Number 10 Denver doesn’t even make the top 50 list for transit ridership. Los Angeles is 35th for transit share and doesn’t even make the list for pedestrian commuting. A city like Pittsburgh would crush Denver & LA in terms of accessibility – it’s top 20 in both transit ridership and pedestrian commuting. So would Minneapolis and several other rust belt cities. If we use transit ridership and pedestrian share, it’s dominated by New York, Boston, DC, Philadelphia, and then the rest of the industrial north east quadrant of the US. No post-WWII should be even near the top ten list.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_U.S._cities_with_high_transit_ridership
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_U.S._cities_with_most_pedestrian_commuters

  • Rafe Husain

    if you throw ebikes and transit into mix you have maximum mobility at minimum cost
    https://medium.com/@rafehusain/triple-cheating-or-driving-is-for-drones-e162858be4bd

  • Rafe Husain

    ebike on the 105

  • thielges

    Nice to see this information being tracked. A derivative metric that would be really interesting is to compare the differential between driving vs. transit. Some of the cities that have poor transit also have congested freeways. There’s your biggest opportunity to gain mode share.

  • dfiler

    Ranked lists always seem like click bait to me. It is more productive to focus on issues rather than rankings. Otherwise it just turns into a metro area pissing contest.

    As a Pittsburgh resident, i can say that transit is horrible here. And yet our transit/pedestrian/cyclist numbers are still relatively high. This isn’t due to planning or policy. Instead it is a legacy of city structure.

  • Norman Garrick

    Or maybe the 10 most desired cities in the country is another way to see it.

  • cjstephens

    Hmm, Philadelphia? Not so much. My point is that having the virtue of jobs within transit doesn’t matter much if the housing that can access that transit is unaffordable to people who would take those jobs.

  • Wilfried84

    A pissing match can sometimes be a good thing. Being that the top of the Fattest Cities in America list prompted Oklahoma City to “go on a diet,” and do a lot to improve walkablility and bikeability.

  • Michael

    I guess that’s my point. The design of a city is most important to accessibility. We’re lying to ourselves when we applaud san jose transit while it’s a sea of disconnected strip malls, office parks, and other exclusionary development patterns. Even in its neglected state, folks can still get around in the average rust belt east coast & midwest city proper pretty darn well as evidenced by material transit and ped commuter share.

    Pittsburgh gets brutal winters and tons of snow and is full of mountains, yet out performs san francisco and all west coast major cities with great year round weather in ped commuter share.

  • Michael

    My concern with this list is that it over-rewards fancy stuff over practical. It’s like saying the city with most miles of bike lanes is the best biking city, without looking at how many people ride. If based on sidewalk quality, fanciness of crosswalk indicators and weather, Cambridge & Boston would be at the bottom of the pedestrain list. Instead, they have the secret sauce resulting in huge ped share by US standards. NYC subway is ancient, drips mystery liquids, and has no heat/AC, but its a global top 5 system.

  • Brandon

    this uses total jobs not percentage of jobs. so naturally the larger cities are at the top. I’m also interested in the percentage of jobs reachable by transit.

  • Brandon

    The ranking is based on total jobs within transit distance, not percentage of jobs. so cities wit ha high density of employment and housing are on top. High density typically means there is a high demand which makes density profitable.

  • Newtonmarunner

    Philadelphia and Chicago are less affordable than San Diego and Honolulu? That’s news to me.

    Also, wages are higher in NYC, San Francisco, Boston, DC, etc. than in the rest of the country. Granted, still not enough to make up for the higher cost of living.

  • cjstephens

    To be fair, I said “matches nicely” not “matches exactly”. And, for what it’s worth, I think you’ll find that wages in Honolulu make up for the cost of living, though I gather this is not the case in San Diego. Plus, Honolulu! It’s paradise!

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