Missed Opportunity: Transit and Jobs in Metropolitan America

Brookings publishes: Missed Opportunity: Transit and Jobs in Metropolitan America

This is a very nice, and very important report on Transit Accessibility across the US, providing a technical database for systematic inter-urban comparisons


An analysis of data from 371 transit providers in the nation’s 100 largest metropolitan areas reveals that:

  • Nearly 70 percent of large metropolitan residents live in neighborhoods with access to transit service of some kind. Transit coverage is highest in Western metro areas such as Honolulu and Los Angeles, and lowest in Southern metro areas such as Chattanooga and Greenville. Regardless of region, residents of cities and lower-income neighborhoods have better access to transit than residents of suburbs and middle/higher-income neighborhoods.
  • In neighborhoods covered by transit, morning rush hour service occurs about once every 10 minutes for the typical metropolitan commuter. In less than one quarter of large metro areas (23), however, is this typical service frequency, or “headway,” under 10 minutes. These include very large metro areas such as New York, Los Angeles, Houston, and Washington. Transit services city residents on average almost twice as frequently as suburban residents.
  • The typical metropolitan resident can reach about 30 percent of jobs in their metropolitan area via transit in 90 minutes. Job access differs considerably across metro areas, from 60 percent in Honolulu to just 7 percent in Palm Bay, reflecting variable transit coverage levels and service frequencies, and variable levels of employment and population decentralization. Among very large metro areas, the share of jobs accessible via transit ranges from 37 percent in Washington and New York to 16 percent in Miami.
  • About one-quarter of jobs in low- and middle-skill industries are accessible via transit within 90 minutes for the typical metropolitan commuter, compared to one-third of jobs in high-skill industries. This reflects the higher concentration of high-skill jobs in cities, which are uniformly better served by transit. It also points to potentially large accessibility problems for workers in growing low-income suburban communities, who on average can access only about 22 percent of metropolitan jobs in low- and middle-skill industries for which they may be most qualified.
  • Fifteen of the 20 metro areas that rank highest on a combined score of transit cover- age and job access are in the West. Top performers include metro areas with noted transit systems such as New York, Portland, San Francisco, and Washington, but also Salt Lake City, Tucson, Fresno, and Las Vegas. Conversely, 15 of the 20 metro areas that rank lowest are in the South.

These trends have three broad implications for leaders at the local, regional, state, and national levels. Transportation leaders should make access to jobs an explicit priority in their spending and service decisions, especially given the budget pressures they face. Metro leaders should coordinate strategies regarding land use, economic development, and housing with transit decisions in order to ensure that transit reaches more people and more jobs efficiently. And federal officials should collect and disseminate standardized transit data to enable public, private, and non-profit actors to make more informed decisions and ultimately maximize the benefits of transit for labor markets.

Ground-effect robot could be key to future high-speed trains

Ground-effect robot could be key to future high-speed trains:

“Source: IEEE Spectrum — May 10, 2011
Japanese prototype of a train that levitates on cushions of air (credit: Tohoku University)
A robotic prototype of a free flying ground-effect vehicle has been developed by a Japanese research group at Tohoku University.
The ground-effect vehicle takes advantage of fast-moving air and uses stubby little wings to fly just above the ground, like a maglev train. The vehicle is controlled more like an airplane than a train; the operator has to deal with pitch, roll, and yaw as well as a throttle.
The researchers are looking to use this robot to generate a dynamic model of how vehicles like these operate, which they hope to apply to a manned experimental prototype train that can travel at 200 kilometers per hour in a U-shaped concrete channel that keeps it from careening out of control.”

(Via Kurzweil.)

Google lobbies Nevada to allow self-driving cars | KurzweilAI

Google lobbies Nevada to allow self-driving cars :

“Google lobbies Nevada to allow self-driving cars
May 11, 2011
Source: New York Times — May 10, 2011
Google is quietly lobbying for legislation that would make Nevada the first state where autonomous vehicles could be legally operated on public roads and would allow occupants to send text messages while sitting behind the wheel.
Dr. Sebastian Thrun of Google (formerly Stanford University) has said robotic vehicles would increase energy efficiency while reducing road injuries and deaths. And he has called for sophisticated systems for car sharing that, he says, could cut the number of cars in the United States in half.”

(Via Kurzweil.)

Blacktop and whitetop


Why are sidewalks and driveways made of concrete, but publicly owned streets are much more typically made of asphalt? What does this say about private and public goods and priorities? Are we building the public environment on the cheap, yet are willing to invest in concrete for private goods?
Prof Richard de Neufville at MIT uses this as example of the effect of Discount Rate on decisions. He argues if interest rates are higher, the future matters less, so first cost is more important, while if rates are lower, costs in the out-years matter more. He also points out that capital subsidies (as in the Interstate program) warp local decisions to choose investments with higher first costs (i.e. concrete) compared with asphalt.
Back to the first paragraph, I suspect local governments are more concerned with first costs than downstream, i.e. they have a high discount rate, while private homeowners internalize those costs when deciding on driveways.
This doesn’t explain sidewalks though, which are typically provided by developers (as are local streets).

New Reports: Higher Gas Prices Mean Safer Roads

Infrastructurist cites our work: New Reports: Higher Gas Prices Mean Safer Roads

Politicians continue to search for answers to the problem of America’s rising gas prices — low as these prices remain in global terms — but many are searching in the wrong places. Redskins quarterback bustRep. Heath Shuler has proposed a 45-day federal gas tax “holiday,” as if the 18 years since the tax was last raised were not holiday enough. Sen. Mark Begich of Alaska has proposed an “expensive federal subsidy” that “makes no sense” and is “counterproductive” to economic recovery, writes Robert Puentes at The New Republic:

It would actually reward high-income households and those that buy the most gas and do nothing for the 9.2 percent of the labor force that is unemployed or those who are retired and living on Social Security.

Social scientists, meanwhile, continue to explore the potential benefits of higher gas prices. A new report from Canadian researchers connects higher fuel costs with reduced sprawl. A pair of recent studies from Mississippi State (via The Transportationist) link higher gas prices with safer roads.

The first, which appeared in the Journal of Safety Research (pdf) last December, studied the relationship between gas prices and car accidents in Mississippi between 2004 and 2008. The researchers report both both short- and intermediate-term links between high prices and reduced crashes, with intermediate effects generally stronger. From a policy standpoint, the researchers conclude:

that if decision makers wish to reduce traffic crash rates, increased gasoline taxes are a considerable option because raised gasoline prices reduce traffic crashes directly.

In the January issue of Accident Analysis & Prevention (pdf), the same research team (give or take a couple members) studied the same time period for relationships between gas prices and drunk driving. The researchers report a connection between higher gas prices and fewer crashes caused by drunk driving, particularly one-car, property-damaging accidents. Exactly why high prices reduce less severe crashes is unclear; perhaps lighter drinkers, responding to economic changes, drink even less. Meanwhile, the researchers conclude, the effect is limited with regard to more severe crashes, perhaps because heavier drinkers are less likely under any condition to alter their behavior:

[H]igher gasoline prices are less likely to deter heavier drinkers from drunk driving, as heavier drinkers are less likely to change driving behaviors due to gasoline price changes and may even drink more in response to economic stress.