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Thursday, February 09, 2012

How lower income citizens commute....

In the nation's 51 major metropolitan areas (more than 1,000,000 population), 76.3% of lower income employees use cars to get to work, three times that of all other modes combined (Figure 1).

Admittedly, this is less than the 83.3% of all employees who use cars for the work trip, but a lot more than would be expected, especially among those who believe that transit is the principal means of mobility for low income citizens. Overall, 8 times as many lower income citizens commuted by car as by transit. In this analysis, lower income citizens are defined as employees who earn less than $15,000 per year, which is approximately one-half of the median earnings per employee of $29,701. .

Perhaps most surprising is the fact that only 9.6% of lower income citizens used transit to get to work. This is not very much higher than the 7.9% of all workers in the metropolitan areas who use transit. (Table 1).  
Why doesn't transit rank that high amongst low income commuters:
Transit's small market share has to do with its inherent impracticality as a means of getting to most employment. According to ground-breaking research by the Brookings Institution, low-income citizens could reach only 35 percent of jobs in the major metropolitan areas by transit in 90 minutes. In other words, you cannot get from here to there, at least for most trips. It is no more reasonable for lower income citizens to spend three hours per day commuting than it is for anyone else. A theoretical 90 minute one-way standard is no indicator of usable mobility. It is likely that only about 8 percent of jobs are accessible by lower income citizens in 45 minutes (Note 2) and 4 percent in 30 minutes.
For many, I'm sure public transportation is a lot more inconvenient than driving to where you need to go. It's probably inconvenient if you have to walk a block or more to get to where you need to go than to drive there. Although when it comes to driving you have to consider parking, how far away do you have to park from your destination.

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