Cities Where Americans Can’t Get To Work

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There are over 7.5 million households in the U.S. in which the residents do not own an automobile. Of course, these homes rely on public transportation to commute to work, schools and shopping. Yet, 700,000 of those households don’t even have access to public transit, according to the Brookings Institution. And for those with access, just over 40% of jobs in their metropolitan areas are accessible within 90 minutes. In some areas, it is much worse. 24/7 Wall St. identified the ten metropolitan areas with the lowest rates of job access, as outlined in the Brookings report.

This lack of effective transportation is extremely restrictive, limiting where people can work and what they can do. Sixty percent of zero-vehicle households have incomes that are less than 80% the median income for the metro area. Although it is unclear whether poor access to jobs increases the odds of poverty in and of itself, it is  obvious that it plays some role. It is therefore not entirely surprising that areas with low job access have high rates of people with low incomes.

Metropolitan areas with low job access are not necessarily a far distance from transit. Miami, for instance, has the 8th best public transportation coverage in the nation, yet one of the lowest rates of job access. This is due in part to the metropolitan area’s size and urban sprawl, as well as inefficiencies within its massive bus network that prevent people from reaching a large number of jobs in a reasonable amount of time, defined by Brookings as 90 minutes or less.

The nation’s best solution to the job accessibility problem, therefore, may be to focus on greater density within housing and business centers. As Adie Tomer, author of the Brookings report, Transit Access and Zero-Vehicle Households, told 24/7 Wall St., this entails “the reduction of sprawling, low density housing and office parks and exchanging them with more transit-oriented development and a higher density zoning code.” Short term solutions are harder to come by.

For this article, 24/7 Wall St. identified the ten metropolitan areas with the lowest rates of job access for households that have access to transit as outlined in the Brookings report. A metropolitan area’s job access rate refers to the share of jobs that the typical working age resident can reach within 90 minutes. Coverage refers to the share of people who are “covered” by public transportation, or live within ¾ miles of at least one transit stop. While areas without transit coverage may not be able to reach jobs, they are simply not considered when calculating the job access rate. The report looked at the 100 largest metropolitan areas. We also reviewed other data from the report including the share of metropolitan households with transit coverage, the percentage of households without access to a private automobile, and the percentage of those houses that are considered “low-income,” or make less than 80% of that metropolitan area’s median income.

These are the ten cities where Americans can’t get to work.