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ANALYSIS: New report reveals accessibility of Philly’s jobs

A new report released by the Brookings Institution shows that Philly's access to jobs via public transit is relatively strong, but could be better. 

Brookings' study
 of 371 transit providers in the 100 largest U.S. metropolitan areas showed that nearly 75 percent of jobs in the country are accessible via public transportation.  Philly outperforms the nation in this category, with 80 percent of jobs in areas with public transit service.  This ranks Philly as the 22nd best performer overall, behind regional counterpart New York City yet ahead of Baltimore.    

But the region does considerably worse when looking at the labor access rate, with just over 22 percent of the population being able to reach their job within 90 minutes using public transportation.  This ranks the region as 54th best and is below the national average of 27 percent.  This shortcoming points to greater issues regarding transit provision, job concentration, and poor land use patterns. 

Philly's numbers were right on line with the average transit coverage in the Northeast, but fell behind Western cities such as Seattle and Los Angeles, where average coverage rates hovered around 86 percent.  The southeast metros scored the worst, with average coverage rates of 67 percent. 

While results by region varied significantly, when you break down the numbers and pit city vs. suburb, a clear national trend appeared:  urban cores have significantly higher transit coverage and jobs via transit than suburban areas.  And Philly isn't prone to this issue; whereas the city has 100 percent transit coverage, the suburbs stand at just above 74 percent.  While nearly 44 percent of city residents can get to work via transit in less than 90 minutes, only 14 percent in suburban locales can. This difference is the 10th highest among the nation's metros.     

And as more and more jobs suburbanize, this poses real problems for regional economic development as well as equitable access to decent jobs.  "The suburbanization of jobs obstructs transit's ability to connect workers to opportunity and jobs to local labor pools," the study noted. "As metro leaders continue to grapple with limited financial resources, it is critical for transit investment decisions to simultaneously address suburban coverage gaps as well as disconnected neighborhoods."   

More could be done to improve transit coverage in suburban areas, something that would prove financially burdensome given their sprawly land use patterns.  Instead,a regional focus needs to be brought to the importance of transit-oriented development, encouraging mixed-use development, and centralizing job pools to better promote the enormous transit assets Philly already has.  
Writer: Greg Meckstroth
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